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The Period of the Renaissance has ever been so 
attractive to the historian that many learned volumes 
have been written on the subject, and it has been 
illustrated by much brilliant eloquence. An army of 
patient students have devoted long years to serious 
research, in hunting out forgotten treasures buried in 
foreign libraries, archives, chronicles, diaries, and 
letters innumerable. 

Yet I venture to hope that there may still be room 
for a modest attempt to bring some of these vast stores 
of knowledge — more especially as they touch upon 
woman's life — within reach of those readers who have 
no leisure for profound and special study. 

To them I would dedicate these sketches of some 
typical women of the Italian Renaissance, which may 
be regarded as brief appreciations, rather than full and 
complete biographies. 



Preface v 

List of Illustrations ix 

Books and Documents consulted xi 

Daughters of the Renaissance; their Life and Sur- 
roundings x 



Lucrejha Tornabuoni, Wife of Piero dbi Medici 47 

Clarice dbgli Orsini, Wife of Lorenzo dei Medici . 60 


GlOVANNA 1 75 



Beatrice d'Estb, Duchess of Milan .... 105 

Bianca Maria Sforxa, Wife of the Emperor 

Maximilian 135 

Isabella d'Estb, Marchbsa of Mantua . 151 

Rbnbb of France, Duchess of Ferrara -171 





Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus .... 187 
Bianca Capello, Grand Duchess of Florence . 204 


Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forli . . 229 

Lucrbzia Borgia, Duchess of Fbrrara .... 257 


Elisabetta Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino. Also an 


Castiglione ; being Conversations at the Court 

of Urbino 313 



Caterina Comaro, Queen of Cyprus. Titian Fnutisphct 

Lucrezia (Tornabuoni) dei Medici. Sandro 

Botticelli Fmc* pag* 48 

Lorenzo dei Medici. Bbnozzo Gozzoli . ,,64 
Beatrice cFEste, Duchess of Milan. Leonardo 

da Vinci „ 1x2 

Lucrezia Crivelli. Leonardo da Vinci . . „ 128 

Isabella d'Este, Marchesa of Mantua. Titian . „ 160 
Bianca Capello, Grand Duchess of Tuscany 

Bronzino „ 208 

Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forli. Marco 

Palmezzani „ 240 

Count Baldassare Castiglione. Raphael . „ 336 



Archivi Toscani. Pietro Berti. 

Chronice Florentine. Villani. 

La Vita Italiano nel Cinquecento. Milano. 3 vols. 

Istoria d' Italia. Guicciardini. 

Rime Sacre della famiglia dei Medici. Pub. da Cionacci. 

Lettere di ana Gentildonna Fiorentina del secolo XV. Pub. da 

Cesare Guasti. 
Annali d' Italia. Muratori. 
La Guerra di Ferrara. Sanuto. 
Relazione di Isabella d'Este con Ludovico Sforza . . . A . Luzio 

R. Renter. 
Opere Complete. Ariosto. 
Le Rime di Francesco Petrarca. 
Lucrezia Borgia. F. Gregorwius. (With original letters and 

Bianca Maria Sforza, Regina dei Romani, Imperatrice di 

Germania. F. Calvi. 

Annali Veneti. Archivio Storico Italiano. D, Malipiero. 

Vita di Caterina Sforza. DalT Abate Antonio Bur rid. 

Caterina Sforza. P. Pasolini. 

" II Cortigiano " del Comte Baldassarc Castiglione. 

Lettere di Baldassarc Castiglione. 

Caterino Cornaro, e il suo Regno. A. Centilh. 

Rime Spirituali di Vittoria Colonna. Venexia, 1548. 

Asolani. Pietro Bcmbo. 



Ricerche intorno a Leonardo da Vinci. G. Uxielli. 

La Renaissance en Italie et en France, al'epoque de Charles VIII. 

M . Eugene Muntx. 
Histoire de la Republique de Venise. P. A. Darn, 
Histoire Secrete de la maison de Medicis. Vaillas. 
M6moires Historiques snr Naples. Count Orlaff. 
Lea Femmes de la Renaissance. De Maulde Claviere. 
Vittorin de Feltre. Benoit. 

Les Origines de la Renaissance en Italie. Emile Gebhart. 
Louis XII. et Lodovico Sforza. Louis Pelissier. 
Histoire des R6publiques Italiennes. M. 5. de Sistnondi. 
Life and Times of Macchiavelli. Villari. 
History of the Papacy. Dr. Creightcn. 
The Renaissance in Italy. /. A. Symonds. 
The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. /. Burckhardt. 
Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino. James Dennistoun. 
The Renaissance. W. H. Pater. 
Life of Lorenzo dei Medici. William Roscoe. 
Life of Leo X. (Dissertation on Lucrezia Borgia.) William Roscoe. 
Life of Isabella d'Este. Julia Cartwright. 
Life of Beatrice d'Este. Julia Cartwright. 

etc. etc. 




It has been well said that each country has made to 
itself a Renaissance after its own image. 

In that glorious dawn which succeeded the gloom of 
the Middle Ages, Italy was the first to awaken. Her 
clear vision, her intellectual energy, her enthusiasm for 
art, gave to all Europe the key-note of the future. The 
secret of her pre-eminence, so willingly accepted by the 
world, will not be found only in her "favourable 
situation, her language, her commercial prosperity, her 
political freedom," when other nations were scarcely 
emerging from barbarism. We shall rather attribute 
it to the spirit of intuition, to a nobler conception 
of man's place in the world, to higher aspirations; in 
a word, to all that constitutes the true Renaissance. 

Italy created that " new spiritual atmosphere of 
culture and intellectual freedom" which broadened 
man's horizon, and made all things seem possible to 
him, in his new-born keen enthusiasm. 

In the Middle Ages, scarcely left behind, the ascetic 
ideal of life taught that beauty and pleasure were deadly 
perils to the soul, and that ignorance was safer than 
knowledge. The Renaissance dared to rebel against 
this mediieval preaching, to set free the reason of man, 


and to awaken in him a passionate appreciation of the 
glories of art and nature, and of all the beauty of this 
living world. The prison doors were thrown open, 
and in the newly awakened joy of life, the men of the 
Renaissance raised their eyes from contemplation of 
the cloister and the grave, and cried aloud in exultation, 
" It is good for us to be here ! " 

Then a wonderful thing happened. At this moment 
of new intellectual birth, of enfranchisement from old 
prejudices, the beautiful dead past came back, newly 
revealed, to a generation eager to see, to comprehend 
all things. The world of classical antiquity, the beauty 
and strength of ancient Greece and Rome, was a revela- 
tion to the far-off sons and daughters of that heroic 
breed, all unconscious of their glorious heritage. A 
very fever of enthusiasm was aroused, not alone for 
the priceless treasures of sculpture in marble and 
bronze, found beneath the Italian soil, but also for the 
classics of language and literature, the works of Homer 
and Plato, of Aristotle and Virgil, of the philosophers 
and the tragedians of ancient fame. Then came the 
fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the ruin of the 
Eastern Empire brought a fresh impulse to the West, 
in rediscovered treasures and learned exiles. 
• The religious ideal of the Middle Ages had appealed 
alike to all — to rich and poor, to the learned and the 
ignorant ; but the cultured spirit of the Renaissance 
was almost exclusively the possession of those classes 
who enjoyed wealth and leisure. This mighty intel- 
lectual impulse touched women even more deeply than 
men, for it not only gave them a new independence, 
but raised them to a high position in social life and the 
encouragement of art. Sharing the same learned educa- 


tion as the men, they had perhaps in a more marked 
degree, the passionate love of the beautiful, and the keen 
desire to collect antique sculptures, paintings, musical 
instruments, and rare classics brought within their 
reach by the new wonder of the printing-press. 

Thus it comes to pass that in so many a brilliant 
Court — of Mantua, of Urbino, of Milan, of Naples, of 
Ferrara, of Asola, and others — we find that a cultured 
woman is the central figure, who gives harmony to 
the whole group. So, in making a special study of 
women in the Italian Renaissance, we find the most 
typical instances amongst the princesses and great 
ladies of the day. 

Before entering upon individual studies, it will be 
interesting to consider the conditions of life during the 
whole period, and to recreate the very atmosphere of 
that long-past day, to us so strange and remote. 

We will attempt to trace the surroundings of an 
Italian woman of the Renaissance, through the varied 
scenes of her life, beginning at the hour of her birth. 
Here, on the threshold, we are met with the knowledge, 
sharply accentuated in the case of a princess, that too 
often she is not welcome. Thus we read in a chronicle 
of Ferrara : 

"A daughter was born this day to the Duke. . . . 
And there were no rejoicings, because every one wished 
for a boy." 

And in the case of a little girl born to Isabella d'Este, 
we find that die mother would not use the splendid 
golden cradle with which she had been presented, but 
put it aside for ten years, until at length the hoped-for 
son arrived, and it was brought forth in state for his use. 

Vet although so vastly inferior to her brothers, a 


daughter was of some value as a counter in the game 
of politics. While she was still an infant, her father 
would cast an anxious glance towards the neighbouring 
Courts of Italy, or his ambition might even stretch out 
as far as Paris, Madrid, or Innsbruck, to consider by 
what alliance he could best strengthen his position. 
Then would follow long and shrewd negotiations with 
some prince who was fortunate enough to possess a 
son, and in due time, often at a very early age, the little 
maiden was betrothed — married by proxy — to an unseen 
bridegroom. In this "marriage for the future" between 
Vittoria Colonna and Ferrante of Pescara, neither of 
the children was more than four years old, while in 
that of Beatrice d'Este, she was five, and Lodovico 
Sforza, Duke of Bari, was twenty-nine. 

When a father's mind was thus set at rest as to the 
future of his little girl, he had leisure to consider her 
education. In some cases it was part of the bargain 
that the child-bride should be brought up in the house- 
hold of her future husband, that she might enter upon 
her new life as soon as possible, before she had formed 
ideas of her own, and could still be moulded to suit 
the place she had to fill. This was often quite suc- 
cessful, as in the case of Vittoria Colonna, who owed 
so much of her future distinction to the cultured train- 
ing of Ferrante's elder sister, Costanza d'Avalos, in 
the fair isle of Ischia. The children were both sweet- 
tempered and grew up happily together; indeed Vittoria's 
devotion to her young husband is a theme of romance. 

But in other cases, the plan of bringing up together 
a future husband and wife has had disastrous con- 
sequences, and resulted in mutual dislike ; as with 
Giovanna I. of Naples and Andreas of Hungary, whose 


tragic story is told later on. There were other dangers, 
too, with regard to sending a little girl to the Court of 
her future husband. Sometimes a change of policy 
or some other cause would break the contract, and 
then the result was most unfortunate. For instance, 
Margarita, the daughter of the Emperor Maximilian, 
was sent to France to be educated as the wife of 
Charles VIII,, but this young king decided to marry, 
for the sake of her goodly heritage, Anne de Bretagne, 
who was already betrothed to Maximilian, and poor 
Margarita was sent back to her father. The result of 
this cruel insult was a long and devastating war. 

An alliance having been arranged for the future, 
the matter of first importance was the little maiden's 
education. No longer, as in the Middle Ages, was 
it governed by Gerson's rule : "All instruction for 
women should be looked at askance." In the days of 
the Renaissance this was changed indeed. "A little 
girl/' said Bembo, "ought to learn Latin; it puts the 
finishing touch to her charms." We can only marvel 
at the amount of their learning. Music and dancing 
were taught from earliest childhood ; and we hear of 
a baby-girl performing the most wonderful ballet to 
entertain a distinguished guest. She would also learn 
to play the lute and viol, and to sing a canzone to her 
own accompaniment. It was not unusual for her to 
talk " with grace and intelligence " at six years old, 
and by that time she would already have begun her 
more serious studies. Some distinguished classical 
scholar would be selected as her tutor, and with him 
she would certainly learn enough Latin to read Cicero 
and Virgil, to recite Latin verses, or repeat an oration. 
She would be taught Greek and Roman history, and 


would be familiar with Dante, Petrarch, and other 
Italian poetry, study modern languages to some extent, 
and in many instances the young girl would learn to 
read Plato in the original. 

In the " Life of Vittorino da Feltre," tutor to the 
Gonzaga family, we have a delightful account of a great 
"humanist," who was marvellously successful as a 
teacher, and carried out a high ideal of education, as 
it was understood in the days of the Italian Renais- 
sance. We find him in 1420 at Mantua, in the Casa 
Zoisa, close to the Castello, on the border of the lake. 
Here a group of high-born youths and maidens were 
trained in body and mind; taught to live a simple life, 
to tell the truth, and remember that learning was 
inseparable from virtue and religion. Their course 
of study included Latin, Greek, philosophy, mathe- 
matics, grammar, logic, music, singing and dancing, 
varied by outdoor games. 

Vittorino had a lofty ideal of a schoolmaster's mis- 
sion, and inspired his pupils with a passion for learn- 
ing. He would begin by reading chosen selections 
from the writings of Virgil, Cicero, Homer and Demos- 
thenes, explaining as he went on ; then he would make 
his class learn passages by heart to form their style. 
One of his rules was, " First be sure that you have 
something to say . . . say it simply." He paid special 
attention to those who were slow to learn, and would 
take poor scholars without pay, " for the love of God." 

In the long summer days he would take his class to 
the rising ground at Pietole,* the birthplace of Virgil, 
about two miles south of Mantua ; and here, in the 

* According to Donatus, Virgil was bora at Andes, which a local 
and very ancient tradition baa identified witb Pietole. 


shady groves, he would tell them the story of Perseus, 
of Hercules . . . while they rested after their games. 
His most distinguished girl-pupil was Cecilia Gonzaga, 
the youngest daughter of his patron, Gian Francesco 
di Montefeltro, who recited Latin verse and could 
read Chrysostom at eight years old, at twelve years 
wrote Greek with "singular purity," and continued 
her classical studies till she was the marvel of the age. 
Margherita, her elder sister, married the cultured 
Leonello d'Este, and he wrote to his wife with regard 
to Vittorino, " that for virtue, learning, and a rare 
and excellent way of teaching good manners, this 
master surpassed all others." 

Another princess distinguished for her learning was 
Ippolyta Maria Sforza, daughter of Francesco, Duke 
of Milan, and wife of Alfonso of Naples. When Pope 
Pius II. paid a visit to her father, the little girl was 
chosen before her elder brothers, to pronounce a Latin 
oration in honour of his Holiness. It was for Ippolyta 
that Constantine Lascaris composed the earliest Greek 
grammar ; and in the convent library of Santa Croce, 
at Rome, there is a transcript by her of Cicero de 
Senectute, followed by a youthful collection of Latin 
It is very curious to notice, in passing, how our 
feelings have changed of late years towards learning 
in women. Dennistoun, in his " Dukes of Urbino," 
written only fifty years ago, remarks that " feminine 
erudition in professorial chairs" was a "questionable 
practice." Thus he dismissed the long roll of learned 
ladies of the Renaissance. 

The wonderful little girls of this period seem to 
have borne all their weight of learning with so light a 


grace that they had leisure to sil over the embroidery- 
frame, and produce the most delicate triumphs of 
needlework. We read of a design of tapestry repre- 
senting "shepherds and shepherdesses feasting on 
cherries and walnuts," or "a device of little children 
on a river bank, with birds flying overhead," worked 
in gold, silk, and wool ; or again of a counterpane with 
"a cherry-tree and a dame and squire gathering 
cherries in a basket," and another with a "group of 
children, their heads meeting in the middle," the 
whole embroidered with gold thread, on brocade, or 
with coloured wools. 

As the Este children bent over their needle, there 
was read to them a romance of Spain or Provence, 
sueh as " I reali di Francia," the last fairy tale of Matteo 
Boiardo, or a new canzone of Niccolo di Correggto. 
The Italian girls of the Renaissance were brought 
up with a love of poetry ; Dante, Petrarch, and Ariosto 
were familiar to them, but above all they had a passion 
for the drama, and learnt at a very early age to take 
parts in a classical play. Yet with all this study of 
books, the trainingof the body was not neglected, for a 
high-born maiden's education was not complete unless 
she could ride boldly, go hunting, and fly a hawk. 

Riding was, indeed, an indispensable accomplishment 
in those days, when most of the long journeys were 
made on horseback. If a young girl of high degree 
did not travel much before her marriage, she would 
certainly have to do so when her betrothal became an 
actual marriage, and she left her father's home for that 
of her husband. 

At the present time, when with a light heart we set 
forth on a journey, and accomplish several hundred 


miles with ease and comfort in a day, it is almost 
impossible for us lo realise what travelling must have 
been for the ladies of the Renaissance. A sea voyage 
in a clumsy sailing-ship was a weary matter ; it took 
nearly two months for Queen Caterina to sail from 
Venice to Cyprus in her gorgeous Bttcentmtr ; but 
a -journey by land was infinitely worse. Mule-drawn 
litters were occasionally used where the roads were 
possible, but the usual way of travelling on state 
occasions was on richly caparisoned horses, in splendid 
dresses, day after day, in all weathers. It is a curious 
fact that most of the great weddings, described in the 
following pages, took place in the depth of winter ; 
and the luckless brides had to face heavy snow-storms 
and tempests, cross rivers in flood, or ride over the 
Alpine passes in mid-December. We have a very 
interesting contemporaneous account of the wedding 
journey of Lucrezia Borgia, when she rode like a 
queen across Italy from Rome to Ferrara. Her escort 
numbered about a thousand persons, with a gay young 
Cardinal, Ippolyto d'Este, at their head. Lucrezia 
had left Rome in a red silk dress trimmed with ermine, 
and a plumed hat, riding a white horse with crimson 
trappings and a golden bridle. 

The other costumes were splendid ; there were 
dwarfs and jesters to beguile the way, a company of 
trumpeters, and hautbois to make martial music, and 
as the cavalcade noisily crossed the wintry plains, it 
might well have been taken by a stranger for a travel- 
ling circus. 

As for the time taken in a journey, we may notice 
that ambassadors who left England on February 22 
reached Rome on May 12. 


In the time of the Renaissance we begin to find an 
interest in travel and a new-born love of Nature, but 
only in her most smiling aspect. A beautiful sunny 
day, a soft horizon, scented flowers in a trim garden, 
the glistening waters of a blue lake — all these things 
appealed alike to men and women. But for Nature 
wild and untamed, they had no sympathy ; a stormy 
ocean, bleak mountain-tops were terrible to them, 
unless, indeed, they were harmonised by some Platonic 
or ethical thought. Thus when Petrarch had read 
a passage in Livy, " King Philip ascends Mount 
Hzemus," it occurred to him that he would climb the 
Mont Ventoux, near him at Avignon. His feelings on 
the way were full of awe and anxious alarm. He met 
an old man who implored him to turn back, but he 
bravely persevered, and when he had reached the 
summit he opened the ■ Confessions of St. Augustine " 
at the ioth chapter, " And men go forth, and admire 
lofty mountains and broad seas, and roaring torrents, 
and the ocean, and course of the stars, and forget their 
own selves while doing so." Then Petrarch closed 
the book and read no more. 

Here we have the ideal spirit of the Renaissance! 
which looked upon Nature merely as a setting for the 
intellectual life. 

Returning to the question of travel, not as a luxury 
but a necessity, as in the case of a young bride's 
wedding journey, we notice that a train of baggage- 
mules is usually sent on beforehand with the princess's 
trousseau. This brings us to the subject of dress, 
which in the Renaissance attained a sumptuous mag- 
nificence, undreamt of before. Having alluded to 
Lucrezia Borgia, we will describe a few dresses w< 


her wedding. The first day she wore a robe of cloth 
of gold, with underbodice of crimson satin, and over 
these a mantle slashed on one side with black satin, 
and trimmed with marten's fur. On her bare neck 
she wore a string of large pearls with a garnet pendant 
... on her head a gold cap. 

Another day she wore a dress with wide sleeves in 
the French mode, of gold tissue and black satin 
slashed in stripes, and over that a mantle of woven 
gold, brocaded in relief, which was open at the side 
and lined with ermine, as were also the sleeves of her 
robe. She was riding on a black mule, with furniture 
of velvet covered with gold, and studded with nails of 
beaten gold, "a most beautiful and rich sight." On 
her throat was a collar of diamonds and rubies, and on 
her head a jewelled cap. 

Next day she appeared in a dress of gold thread in 
the French mode, and a mantle of dark satin with 
narrow stripes of beaten gold, studded with small 
gems and trimmed with ermine, on her head a cap 
bossed with garnets and pearls, and on her neck a 
jewelled collar. 

Her new sister-in-law, Isabella d'Este, wore a robe 
of green velvet embroidered in gold, and a black velvet 
mantle trimmed with lynx skin, and the next day a 
gown of white silver tabi, and her head and neck were 
decked with pearls. The Duchess of Urbino had a 
dress of velvet striped with woven gold. Another 
dress mentioned is of black velvet lined with crimson 
satin, slashed and bound with lacets of massive gold, 
and buttoned down the front with ruby studs, her cap 
being formed of certain gold bars set with precious 
stones. . . . 



These are only a few of the gorgeous costumes 
described with loving minuteness by the old chroniclers. 
But it was not only on a special occasion like this, that 
so much extravagance was displayed. At an earlier date 
in Florence, a Kucellai bride* had in her trousseau: 
(i) a white velvet gown richly trimmed with pearls, 
silk and gold, with open sleeves lined with pure white 
fur ; {2) a dress of zetani, a stuff of very rich thick silk, 
trimmed with pearls and the sleeves lined with ermine; 
(3) gown of white damask brocaded with gold flowers, 
the sleeves trimmed with pearls ; (4) one of silk tabi 
with crimson, gold and brocaded sleeves, and many 
others ; a rich necklet of diamonds, rubies and pearls 
worth 100,000 gold pieces ; a pin for the hair and neck- 
lace of pearls with a large pointed diamond ; a hood 
embroidered with pearls ; a net for the hair, also 
worked with pearls ; a hood of crimson cloth wrought 
with pearls; also two caps with silver, pearls and 
diamonds. . . . 

The absence of " massive gold " must have made the 
dresses of the Florentine bride much more comfort- 
able to wear. It would be easy to fill many pages with 
such details, but this is enough to give some idea of 
the unlimited extravagance displayed in the dress of the 
period. It is only fair to add that the men must have 
spent quite as much on their own gorgeous Court array. 

There was much art needed in wearing those splendid 
clothes. The young girl had to be taught that the robe 
must be slightly lifted in front to show the dainty feet, 
and themantle (the albcrnia) must from time to time 
be held open with both hands wide in front, "as a 
peacock spreads his tail." 

" Nannini, sister of Lorenzo dei Medici. 


A lady's complete costume would consist of a 
long under garment of fine and costly linen, then a 
"doublet," a linen bodice to which a white full skirt 
was sewn. A long-waisted, stiff bodice of stout cloth 
was worn above this, and by means of lacets or hooks 
a pair of long, closely-fitting sleeves of rich material 
could be fastened on, and changed to suit the outer 
dress. This was a long robe sweeping the ground, 
tight in the bodice, and sometimes without sleeves, 
but usually with loose hanging sleeves lined with 
ermine or some other costly fur. The girdle would be 
studded with gems on great occasions. Outside this 
a long mantle (albcmia) of costly satin or velvet 
lined with fur, would be worn out-of-doors. The 
passion for extravagant dress spread to all ranks, and 
in sober Florence, the grave and careful city fathers 
sought to check it with the terrors of the law. 
An account has been preserved in the archives of 
one "forbidden gown" worn by a certain Donna 

"A black mantle of raised cloth; the ground is 
yellow, and over it are woven birds, parrots, butterflies, 
white and red roses, and many figures in vermilion 
and green, with pavilions, and dragons, and yellow and 
black letters, and trees, and many other figures of 
various colours, the whole lined with cloth in hues of 
black and vermilion." 

It must have been a thankless and fearful task for 
the censor of dress 1 An accusation would be lodged 
against some one for wearing a forbidden number of 
buttons. "Buttons, say you!" would cry the irate 
lady. " But where be the button-holes 7 Nay, these 
be only harmless bosses. . . ." And so the sumptuary 


laws would be in vain, as they have ever been against 
the quick wit of women. 

To return from these lower regions of society, to 
the illustrious lady whose career we are following 
through life. She was above law, and the chroniclers 
of her day would exclaim that nothing was too costly 
or too magnificent to be lavished on her surpassing 

So far as the bride's dress is concerned, we have 
certain facts to deal with, but when we come to her 
personal beauty, it becomes a much more difficult 
task, for the biographer always deals in superlatives in 
describing his princess, while her portrait may seem 
to us much open to criticism. From careful study 
we can at least learn what was the ideal of beauty in 
those days. The hair must be thick and long, and if 
possible fair or golden, as this hue was admired above 
all others. The forehead smooth and serene, broader 
than it is high ; a good space between the eyes, which 
should be large and full, the white of the eye faintly 
blue. The eyebrows must be dark and silky, the skin 
bright and clear, a delicate colour on the cheeks, the 
chin round, with the glory of a dimple ; a small mouth, 
the neck white, round and long ; the hand also white 
and plump ; and the figure slender and willowy. 

False hair was much used by older women, and it 
was often made of white or yellow silk. Many ladies 
would pass the whole day in the open air, with the 
hair spread out in the sun, to bleach it. On her 
wedding journey a bride would delay the cumbrous 
procession for a whole day, that she might have her 
wonderful golden locks washed and fitly cared for. 
As for the modes of dressing the hair, it would take a 


volume in itself to do justice to the subject, and would 
then need the most elaborate illustrations. 

Paint was almost universally used and as constantly 
preached against, but in vain ; and in the craze for 
golden hair, there is very little doubt that the radiant 
hue was often obtained by artificial means. 

When the high-born young bride had successfully 
accomplished her wedding journey, and had made a 
splendid entry into the city of her adoption, the next 
step was to welcome her with magnificent entertain- 
ments. In these the princes of the Renaissance 
specially excelled, shedding on them such artistic 
splendour and lustre as was unknown to classical or 
mediaeval days. It is very difficult to make a selec- 
tion, but possibly one of those prepared at Milan for 
the coming of Beatrice d'Este, is amongst the most 

In this Giostra, or tournament, the knights wore 
strange symbolical costumes. Thus a Mantuan troop 
wore green velvet and gold lace, and carried lances of 
gold and olive boughs. The Knights of Bologna 
arrived on a car of triumph drawn by unicorns and 
stags ; then came twelve gallant horsemen in black 
and gold Moorish dress, with a Moor's head on their 
helmets and white doves on their sable armour. They 
were followed by a band of wild Scythians who 
thundered into the piazza on their Barbary steeds, and 
then suddenly threw off their disguise, while a Moorish 
giant came to the front to recite in poetry the praise of 
the bride. It is with special interest that we find 
some of the designs on this occasion were by Leonardo 
da Vinci. 

Then tilting matches were carried on during four 

amr. Afterwards aVy both joined 
hands and danced toge&or. Next Minerva struck the 

".'.-'•-j'. ■ i ."*" -r^ir i. - 1 M :. H>ttBI irre-ircd. 
; saaae with his trident, and a horse 

t with open books in their hands. 

This was interpreted to mean dial states are founded 
on treaties of peace. 

The following account of a VI irade-piay is given in 
a letter of Isabella d'Este : " A young angel spoke the 
argument of the play, quoting the words of Prophets 
who foretold the Advent of Christ, and the said 
Prophets appeared speaking their prophecies, trans- 
lated into Italian verse. Then Mary appeared under 
a portico supported by eight pillars, and began to 
repeat some verses from the prophets, and while she 
spoke, the sky opened, revealing the figure of God the 
Father surrounded by a choir of angels. No support 
could be seen either for his feet or those of the 
angels ; and six seraphs hovered in the air, suspended 
by chains. 


" In the centre of the group was the Archangel 
Gabriel, to whom God the Father addressed his word, 
and after receiving his orders Gabriel descended with 
admirable artifice and stood half-way in the air. Then 
all of a sudden an infinite number of lights broke out 
at the feet of the angel choir and hid them in a blaze 
of glory, which really was a thing worth seeing, and 
flooded all the sky with radiance. At that moment 
the Angel Gabriel alighted on the ground, and the iron 
chain which held him was not seen, so that he seemed 
to float down on a cloud, till his feet rested on the 

" After delivering his message, he returned with the 
other angels to Heaven, to the sound of singing and 
music and melody, and there were verses recited by 
spirits holding lighted torches in their hands, and 
waving them to and fro, as they stood supported in 
the air, so that it frightened me to see them. When 
they had ascended into Heaven, some scenes of the 
Visitation of St. Elizabeth and St. Joseph were given, 
in which the heavens opened again, and an angel 
descended with the same admirable contrivance to 
manifest the Incarnation." So the festa ended. 

But the most interesting of all Renaissance enter- 
tainments were the dramatic performances, which were 
always a great feature in the reception of a bride. 
Thus Lucrezia Borgia had, during a whole week, the 
comedies of Plautus acted before her with marvellous 
interludes ; the germ of our modern ballets. One of 
the best accounts of these is given in a letter of 
Castiglione. He is describing a play by Cardinal Ber- 
nardo Bibbiena, first performed at Urbino, called the 
Calandra, and afterwards a great favourite with Leo X. 


"The scene was laid by a city wall with two great 
towers, on one of which were bagpipers, on the other 
trumpeters. . . . Another scene represented a beautiful 
city, with streets, palaces, churches, towers, all in relief 
. . . statues, columns, and a brilliant light of torches 
over all. . . . The interludes were as follows : First, 
a moresca of Jason, who came dancing on the stage in 
fine antique armour, with a splendid sword and shield, 
whilst there suddenly appeared on the other side two 
bulls vomiting lire, so natural as to deceive some of the 
spectators. These the good Jason approached, and 
yoking them to a plough made them draw it. He then 
sowed the dragon's teeth, and forthwith there sprang 
up from the stage, antique warriors inimitably managed, 
who danced a fierce moresco, trying to slay him ; and 
having come on, they each killed the other. After them, 
Jason again appeared, with the Golden Fleece on his 
shoulders, dancing admirably. 

" In the second interlude there was a lovely car 
wherein sat Venus with a lighted taper in her hand ; it 
was drawn by two doves which seemed alive, and on 
them rode a couple of Cupids with bows and quivers 
. . . preceded and followed by more Cupids dancing 
a moresco. They set fire to a door, out of which leaped 
nine gallant men all in flames, who also danced to per- 
fection. . . ." Then followed other interludes, Neptune 
on his sea-horses, . . . and Juno in her car drawn by 
peacocks, &c, " of which no description can afford an 
idea," says the enthusiastic beholder. 

Yet if this kind of amusement went on day after 
day, for five hours or so at a time, preceded by 
state balls all the afternoon, we can quite under- 
stand that even the most cultured lady, such as 


Isabella d'Este, was sometimes overcome with " in- 
finite weariness." 

When our " illustrious lady " has passed through the 
ordeal of religious ceremonies and splendid entertain- 
ments in connection with her wedding, the next point 
of interest to consider, will be the home in which she is 
henceforth to rule. This, of course, would vary greatly, 
according to the city whither it has pleased Fate to 
waft her. 

In Florence, for instance, in the days of the early 
Medici, we should see the fair city of to-day as a 
gloomy mass of battlemented towers, in the midst 
of densely foliaged trees and tangled undergrowth, 
encompassed by massive bulwarks and high walls. 
Where now stands the Piazza di Santa Croce the Arno 
flowed, passing from the Ponte a Rubicante and the 
Castle of Altafronte. The corn-market was held where 
now stands the Loggia of Or San Michele ; the tower 
begun byGiottowas but recently completed, the double 
dome of Brunellesco was built in 1434 ; and the Palazza 
dei Priori stood out in its grim strength, while from its 
tower, the great bell, the Vacca, summoned the people 
to elections or sounded the note of war. But the 
merchant city was growing fast, and each year saw 
new and splendid palaces rising in its sombre streets, 
while monasteries and churches kept pace with them. 

One of the earliest Medici palaces was in the Via 
Larga (now Cavour), but both Cosimo and his grandson 
Lorenzo the Magnificent built delightful villas in the 
fair country outside Florence, where their families 
dwelt during most of the year. The Renaissance 
brought with it a taste for gardens and flowers, fruit- 
trees and rare shrubs, on which we shall dwell 


later in describing more hilly those of the Este 

The simple severity of Florentine life, in the early 
part of the fifteenth century, will scarcely give us an ideal 
presentment of the magnificence found in an Italian 
palace of the Renaissance. For this we shall have to 
pass on to a somewhat later date, and seek out the huge 
square Castello of red brick in the heart of Ferrara, 
home of the Este princes ; the lake-encircled Palazza 
of the Gonzaga at Mantua ; the hill city of classic 
Urbino ; or the far-famed Castello of Pavia, the pride of 
Milan's dukes. We cannot do better than suffer our 
choice to fall upon this last. 

In the ancient capital of the Lombard kings stands 
this splendid monument of Renaissance architecture ; 
a great quadrangle flanked by four massive towers. 
The inner court was surrounded by a double cloister 
with colonnades of low round arches, while the Gothic 
windows of the upper loggia and the banqueting-hall 
were relieved by delicate tracery and shafts of marble, 
and beautiful mouldings in terra-cotta. The stately 
palace stood in the midst of exquisite gardens, with 
avenues of plane-trees, groves of cypress-, mulberry-, 
orange-, and lemon-trees, myrtle and cystus ; broad 
lawns with fountains of choice design, and dainty 
pavilions for summer days. In the park beyond, there 
were artificial lakes, the charm of running water, groups 
of forest trees, and upland stretches of picturesque 
wildness which harboured a number of stags and wild 
deer for the chase. 

But the landscape without, "divinely beautiful," as 
Commines calls it, was not to be compared with the 
magnificence within the palace walls. Never has that 


princely lavishness of space been carried to a greater 
pitch. In the immense ball-room, the banqueting- 
hall, the vast Sala in which the favourite game of 
" la Palla " was played, and the whole suite of splendid 
chambers — the groined ceilings were ablaze with gold 
and ultramarine in quaint embtem and device — and the 
frescoed walls were masterpieces of the great artists 
of the day ; Leonardo da Vinci being chief amongst 
them. The upper chambers were hung with priceless 
tapestries, and the whole fittings of a room would often 
be embroidered to match in silk and worsted, and gold 
and silver thread. These would include hangings for 
the walls, doors and windows, a baldaquin and counter- 
pane for the bed, and curtains to draw all round it ; a 
coverlet for the low couch, and cushions for the various 
chairs and benches, which were delicately carved, or of 
inlaid wood. 

There is a most interesting list from an unpublished 
MS.* of sixty sets of hangings which Valentine Visconti 
took with her to France, part of the colossal dowry by 
means of which the daughter of a soldier of fortune 
found a royal alliance. Amongst these we find : 

"Item: A 'chamber' (or set of hangings), the 
baldaquin worked with a design of angels ; the long 
curtain depending from the tester behind the pillows 
represents shepherds and shepherdesses feasting on 
cherries and walnuts ; the counterpane, a shepherd and 
a shepherdess within a park ; the whole embroidered 
with gold thread and coloured wools. 

" Item : Wall hangings to match. . . . 

" Item : Another chamber with hangings complete 
with all the Victories of Theseus. 

* Madame Duclatlx. 


" Item : A great tapestry, with the history of the 
destruction of Troy the Great ; green velvet cover for 
a couch, and chair cushions of green velvet richly 
emboidered to match. 

"Item: A white 'chamber' sown with gladiolus, 
bed furniture, and all hangings. 

"Item : A set of green tapestries with the Fountain 
of Youth and several personages, with bed hangings, 
counterpanes, couch-covers, and six wall hangings, all 
worked very richly with gold, without guards (linen 

"Item : A set of hangings complete of cloth of gold, 
also another 'chamber' representing a lady playing 
with a knight at the game of chess." 

This would be about a tenth part of one collec- 
tion. It was not only in palaces that the spirit of the 
Renaissance had brought such order and beauty into 
the domestic life of Italy, for when Sir Thomas Hoby, 
the translator of the "Cortigiano," was entertained 
as a private gentleman at Salerno, by the Marquis of 
Capistrano, he says: 

"Whithorn and I were had into a chamber hanged 
with clothe of gold and vellute, wherin were two 
beddes, thon of silver worke, and the other of vellute, 
with pillowes, bolsters, and the shetes curio uslie 
wrought with needle worke." 

To appreciate how far England was behind in such 
matters, it may be interesting to quote a few words 
from the letter written by Thomas Sackville (Lord 
Buckhurst) to the Lords of the Privy Council, when 
he was ordered to entertain the Cardinal de Chatillon 
at Shene, sixteen years later than Hoby's letter. He 
had no proper plate or glass or " napery " : 


"One onlie tester and bedsted not occupied I had, 
and thos I delivered for the Cardinal! him self, and 
when we cold not by any menes in so shorte a time 
procure another bedsted for the bushop, I assighned 
them the bedsted on which ray wiefes waiting wemen 
did lie, and laid them on the ground. Mine own basen 
and ewer I lent to the Cardinall, and wanted me 
self . . . ." 

To return to Italy. We have a description of a 
Renaissance bed, raised upon a dais above a floor of 
wood mosaic, with a carved canopy of wonderful 
design and workmanship, supported by four demons 
of terrible aspect. The furnishing of the chamber 
would be in keeping, with one or two great carved and 
painted chests, containing the lady's wedding dowry of 
rich garments and jewels, and a couch and carved 
chairs covered with rich tapestry or velvet to match 
the hangings. On the floor we should find Eastern 
rugs, and skins of leopard or tiger, and in a secluded 
corner a reliquary and the image of the Madonna or 
a saint, before which a lamp would be always kept 
burning. We read of the jug and ewer being of silver 
or gold on special occasions, and Infessura tells us 
how on a certain visit to Rome of the Duchess Leonora 
of Mantua, every lady in her suite had a washing basin 
of gold given her by the Cardinal of San Sisto. "Oh, 
guarda ! " he adds, " in such things to spend the 
treasure of the Church 1 " 

The household and chamber linen, or other material, 
would be on the same scale of magnificence, for we 
find such a list as this in the dowry of a noble lady : • 

" Item*. Seven pairs of sheets of spun silk striped with 

* Vittoria Colonna. 



gold ; twenty pairs of sheets embroidered in different 
coloured silks ; fourteen pairs of Olana (Dutch linen) 
fringed with gold ; . . . two pairs of thin sheets wrought 
with gold and silk. 

" Item : A silk coverlet with stripes of gold ; . . . 
pillow-slips of crimson silk ; . . . eighteen counter- 
panes of silk, one ' alia moresca ' ; . . . and great 
stores of splendid bed and table napery, &c" 

In the banqueting-hall we should specially notice 
the immense buffets, or sideboards, ten feet high, 
loaded with gold and silver plate for use at banquets, 
with majolica of Urbino and vases from Faenza (called 
fayence in France). On the floor there would be more 
Eastern rugs ; in front of the seats, great mats of em- 
broidered Hungarian leather, and skins of animals 
killed in the chase or sent from distant lands. The 
chairs are embossed with gilt, or if of wood, are 
covered with stamped leather and adorned with clamps 
of bright metal. Armchairs are sometimes protected 
with a great carved head, or with a top and curtains, to 
keep away the draught in those vast apartments, and 
perhaps stand on either side of the great hearth with 
its dogs of shining metal, where burn massive trunks 
of wood, cut in special lengths. Above the fireplace 
there will rise a magnificent carved overmantel, and in 
one of the rooms we shall probably find some wonder- 
ful clock of copper and brass, with not only a peal of 
bells, but a complete solar system, showing the move- 
ment of all the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and 
stars, as taught by Ptolemy. 

As for the library, whether at the villa of Lorenzo 
dei Medici, at the splendid home at Pavia of the Duke 
of Milan, or at the cultured and courtly Palace of 


Urbino, it would be full of priceless manuscripts, 
adorned with exquisite miniatures and treasures of 
classical learning until, as time advanced, the wonder 
of the printing-press brought the whole learning of the 
ancient world within the reach of a generous and 
studious patron. But to do full justice to a splendid 
library of the Renaissance would require a volume in 

With regard to the famous artists and scholars and 
learned men who were so eagerly welcomed by every 
cultured princess at her Court, their story will be 
found in all the chronicles of the period, where 
women meet with so scant a mention. The kindred 
subject of intellectual and artistic conversation and 
of literary coteries is so fully treated later on in 
the history of Elisabetta Gonzaga and the Court of 
Urbino, that it will not be needful to touch upon it 

The ladies of the Renaissance in Italy were not only 
distinguished in social life and conversation, but were 
usually great letter-writers, and many quotations from 
their correspondence are given in the following pages. 
Fortunately for us, the written word was looked upon 
with respect in those days, for we are told that of one 
lady, Isabella d'Este, for instance, nearly two thousand 
letters have been preserved. It is very interesting to 
note the difference in handwriting, which betrays 
many curious secrets. In the sixteenth century it is 
usually large and free, often very characteristic of 
the writers. The strokes are delicate and somewhat 
angular, with many strange contractions and flourishes. 
The handwriting of Vittoria Colonna, for example, is 
plain, distinct, and somewhat masculine in style, but 


slightly nervous and irregular, with various abbrevia- 
tions and dashes. 

" With mine own hand" is a very needful addition, 
as it was much the custom for a great lady to dictate 
letters to her secretary, who was often given to embroider 
on his own account The following simple little note 
if Isabella d'Este is an interesting specimen of a 
dictated letter : 

" My LORD, — I pray you mock not at my letter, and 
say not that all women are poor things, and ever fearful, 
for the malignity of others is far greater than my fear 
and your lordship's mettle. I would have written this 
iletter with my own hand, but the heat is so great that* 
If it last, we are like to die. The little- lad is very well 
and sends your lordship a kiss, and for my own part, I 
do ever commend myself to you. 

" With sore desire to see your lordship, 

" Isabella, with mine own hand. 

•' Mantua, July 33rd." 

Here we plainly see that the signature alone was 
hers ; but " it was so hot 1 " 

Every married woman was expected to rule her 
household well and wisely, according to her rank in 
life ; with magnificence on state occasions, yet with 
due regard to economy. The young bride of a prince 
would often find that the expenses of her splendid 
wedding and reception had been so enormous, as to 
require careful retrenchment in the Court expenditure 
or years. Banquets given in honour of distinguished 
guests would be amongst the most costly items. In 
the records of Florence we find a detailed account of 
a series of banquets given on the occasion of a Medici 



wedding, that of Lorenzo's sister, Oiovanna, which 
lasted from Sunday morning to Tuesday evening. To 
these all the relations, friends, and the chief citizens 
were invited, and they sat down five hundred at a time, 
under great awnings in the Piazza opposite the palace. 
The cooking was done in the street, by fifty cooks 
and their helpers. Hither came " quartered bullocks, 
casks of Greek wine, and as many capons as could 
hang on a staff borne on the shoulders of two stout 
peasants ; bars of buffalo cheese, turkeys in pairs, 
barrels of ordinary wine and choice sweet wine, 
baskets full of pomegranates, hampers of large sea fish, 
crates of little silver-scaled fish from the Arno, birds, 
hares, cream cheese packed in fresh green rushes, 
baskets full of sweetmeats, tarts, and other confec- 
tionery prepared in the convents." 

With the refreshments there came twenty confec- 

■ tioners, who distributed a profusion of caramels made 
of pine-seeds. These banquets cost more than 150,000 
francs; including "70 bushels of bread, 2800 white 
loaves, 4000 wafers, 50 barrels of sweet white wine, 
1 500 pair of poultry, 1500 eggs, 4 calves, 20 large basins 
of galantine. . . ." 

These were public entertainments ; but where the 
company was more select, the extravagance was no 
less, for the table was idealised with the most fanciful 
decorations that could be devised. Thus, at a banquet 
given to welcome the Princess Isabella of Naples, we 
read of each course being introduced " by some mytho- 
logical personage, Jason appeared with the golden 
fleece ; Phoebus Apollo brought in a calf stolen from 
the herds of Admetus; Diana led Action in the form 
of a stag ; Atalanta followed with the wild boar of 


Calydon ; Iris came with a peacock from the car of 
Juno ; and Orpheus carried in the birds whom he had 
charmed with his lute. Hebe poured out the wines ; 
Vertumnus and Pomona handed round apples and 
grapes ; Thetis and her sea-nymphs brought every 
variety of fish ; and shepherds, crownedwith chaplets 
of ivy, arrived from the hills of Arcady, bearing jars of 
milk and honey to the festive board," 

At a banquet given at Venice in honour of the 
Duchess of Milan, we hear that the different dishes 
and confetti were carried in to the sound of trumpets, 
accompanied by an infinite number of torches. "First 
of all came figures of the Pope, the Doge, and the 
Duke of Milan, with their armorial bearings ; then 
St. Mark, the adder and the diamond, and many other 
objects — all in coloured and gilded sugar, making as 
many as three hundred in all, together with every 
variety of cakes and confectionery, and gold and silver 
drin king-cups, all of which were spread out along the 
hall, and made a splendid show." 

On the marriage of Sigismond, King of Poland, with 
Bona Sforza, at the Court of Naples, Vittoria Colonna 
was a guest, and Passari gives a very curious account 
of the supper which followed. "On quitting the 
church they sat down to table at six in the evening 
and began to eat, and left off at five in the morning." 
There was a stupendous menu, and twenty-seven 
courses are enumerated. We notice amongst them, 
Hungary soup ("putaggio Ungarese"), stuffed peacocks, 
quince pies, thrushes stuffed with bergamott {scented 
citrons), and " bianco mangiare con mostardo ". . . . 

This banquet may have had somewhat of a barbaric 
touch in honour of the Hungarian guests, who possibly 



spent the night in appreciating the wines of the sunny 
South after the ladies had retired. It was the usual 
custom to play at "scartino," or "l'imperiale," and 
other card games, or at chess or backgammon, after 
dinner ; and there appears to have been much gambling. 
Beatrice d'Este once won three thousand ducats, and 
we are told-she spent it at once. 

An interesting book was published in 1543, which 
throws much light on household expenditure in the 
days of the Renaissance. It bears the title, "Con- 
cerning the Management of a Roman Nobleman's 
Court." It thus enumerates the members of the 

Two chief chamberlains. 

One general controller of estates, receiving 10 scudi 

a month. 
One chief steward, receiving 10 scudi a month. 
Four chaplains, each receiving two scudi a month. 
One master of the horse. 
One private secretary and assistant secretary. 
One auditor and 1 lawyer. 

Four Litterati, who among them must know the 
four principal languages of the world, viz., 
Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Italian. Each 
receiving 100 scudi yearly. 
Six gentlemen of the chambers. 
One private master of the table. 
One chief carver, ten waiting men. 
One butler of the pantry, and assistant. One butler 

of the wines. 
Six head grooms. One marketer, with assistant. 
A storekeeper, a cellarer, a carver for the serving 


A chief cook, under cook, assistant, and a chief 

A water-carrier and a sweep. 
Last in the list comes a physician, " not because a 
doctor is not worthy of honour, but in order not to 
seem to expect any infirmity for his lordship or his 
household." The physician was required to be not 
only " learned, faithful, diligent and affectionate," but 
also, and above all, "fortunate in his profession." 

The food in this Roman household cost 4000 scudi 
(or dollars); 1400 being spent on wine alone. The 
allowance was a jug holding rather more than a 
quart of pure wine daily to gentlemen, and the same 
quantity, diluted by one-third of water, to all the 

" Sixteen ounces of beef, mutton or veal allowed 

for each person. 
"Twenty ounces of bread to each person, of more 

or less fine quality. 
"One lb. of cheese to each, monthly; other 

eatables are all enumerated, 
" Four or five large wax candles daily for his lord- 
ship. Also an allowance of wax for torches 
to accompany dishes to table, and to accom- 
pany his lordship and gentlemen out-of-doors. 
"Wax candles for the altar in the chapel. Tallow 
candles for use in the house." 
It may be well to note here that the ducat of Italy 
varied in nominal value from about four francs to four 
shillings of our money ; but the coin would buy nearly 
twelve times the value, in necessaries or luxuries, 
which that amount represents at the present day in 



There were other inmates of a great house, not 
mentioned in the inventory above. The trade with 
the East had one curious result, in a traffic of slaves, 
who were much used as domestic servants in Italy, 
during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the 
markets of Venice, of Genoa, or of Naples an able- 
bodied young woman might be bought at a price 
varying from six to eighty-seven ducats. We find 
interesting testimony to this fact in the letters of 
Alessandra Macinghi to her son Filippo Strozzi, at 
Naples. She writes : 

" Al Nome di Dio. A di' 13 di Sttltmbre 1465. 

" I would remind you that we have need of a 
slave ... if you give orders to have one bought, let it 
be a Tartar, as they are the best for hard work, and 
are simple in their ways. The Russians are more 
delicate and prettier, but it seems to me that a Tartar 
would be best . . . Iddio di male vi guardi, 

"Per la tua Alessandra, in Firenze." 

De Maulde reminds us that "the mother of Carlo 
dei Medici was a lovely Circassian girl, bought by the 
grave and aesthetic Cosimo il Vecchio." A poem of 
the period tells us that " The loving slaves shook out 
the dust from their masters' dress every morning, 
looking fresher and happier than the rose." But when 
we see, from Madonna Alessandra's letters, how much 
trouble they often gave, we must look upon this as a 
poetical licence. 

No great household could be without its dwarfs and 
jesters, and we hear a great deal about them in the 


life of Isabella d'Este, whose palace at Mantua had 
a suite of apartments specially built for them. She 
occasionally gave away a baby dwarf to a friend, as we 
should a kitten. When Alfonso d'Este was incon- 
solable for the loss of his wife, a certain Martello, pet 
dwarf and jester, was lent to him for his comfort. 
" He could not express the delight which the buffoon 
had caused him, and esteemed his presence better than 
the gift of a castle." 

But Martello fell ill and died ; the poor fool making 
jokes even on his death-bed. On hearing of the sad 
event, Francesco, Duke of Mantua, writes : 

" Most people can be easily replaced, but Nature will 
never produce another Martello." This was his elegy 
written by the bard Pistoia : 

"If Martello is in Paradise, he is making all the 
saints and angels laugh ; if he is in hell, Cerberus will 
forget to bark." 

In time of sickness, the first thing which occurred 
to a friend was to lend the patient a jester or pet dwarf, 
to keep up his spirits at any cost. 

The ladies of the Renaissance had no lack of other 
pets — their horses, their greyhounds, their falcons ; 
for hunting was a passion with many of them. We 
read that Isabella d'Este's presence was heralded by 
the barking of her little dogs, and that she sought far 
and wide in the convents Of Venice for rare Persian and 
Syrian cats. When a pet animal died it was buried 
with great solemnity in the gardens of the Castello, 
and a cypress was planted, or a tombstone inscribed 
with the name was placed on the grave, AH the ladies 
and gentlemen of the household, and the favourite dogs 
and cats, joined in the funeral procession, we are told. 


Visitors to Lord Pembroke's park at Wilton House 
will remember the pathetic little cemetery, over- 
shadowed by sombre trees, where the pet dogs have 
been buried since the days of Queen Elizabeth. The 
idea may have come from Italy. 

While on the subject of pet animals, we must include 
a wonderful giraffe, which was sent to Florence in 

1488, a present from the Soldan of Babylonia to 
Lorenzo dei Medici. He was seven braccias high, and 
was led about the streets by two Turks, to the intense 
delight of the citizens. So great was the curiosity felt 
about him, even by the nuns, that he had to be taken 
round to the convents to be inspected. Such a plea- 
sant beast 1 " It eats everything, poking its head into 
every peasant's basket, and would take an apple from 
a child's hand, so gentle is it." It had a stable in the 
Via Scala, where fires were kept up, for it was much 
afraid of cold. But, alas ! notwithstanding all this 
affectionate care, the poor giraffe died on January 2, 

1489, and " everybody lamented it, for it was such a 
beautiful animal ! " 

Beyond the due ordering of her Court and house- 
hold, many and various were the talents needed by a 
princess of the Renaissance days. In the absence of 
her husband she would be called upon suddenly to 
pilot the ship of state, and form a decision upon 
important political matters. As a reigning sovereign, 
Giovanna of Naples showed great presence of mind 
on various critical occasions, and her defence of her 
conduct at the Court of Avignon, was a masterly stroke 
of talent. 

Ludovico Sforza could find no more astute and 
capable ambassador to send to the Signoria of Venice 


than his Duchess Beatrice, who succeeded admirably 
in her diplomacy. Again, at a critical moment, when 
Louis of Orleans was at his gates, and the Duke was 
seized with sudden and unaccountable panic, it was 
his wife who came to the rescue with marvellous 
presence of mind, and took prompt measures for 
defending the city. 

When Francesco, Marchese of Mantua, was a pri- 
soner at Venice, it was his wife Isabella who ruled the 
state, and by her untiring efforts at length obtained 
his release. But all these, and many other peaceful 
incidents, fade into insignificance before the stirring 
adventures of Caterina Sforza, told in the story of her 
life. Few women have mounted the ramparts with 
such mettle as the gallant Madonna of Forli, when 
she held the Fort of St. Angelo for her husband, or 
defended her own citadel of Ravaldino. 

Italy was very proud of her warrior women ; the 
"virago" is always spoken of with loving admiration. 
We have an anecdote from Venice, when on a certain 
Sunday, June 14, 1310, the eve of San Vito's Day, there 
was an insurrection against the Doge. During the 
fighting a woman aimed a stone mortar from a window 
at h the standard-bearer of the rebels ; it struck his 
head; bearer and banner fell to the ground. There- 
upon panic seized the conspirators ; they fled and 

The heroine, Lucia Rosso, was requested to name 
her own reward. She only asked that "she might 
have the right to fly the standard of San Marco from 
tier window on every festa-day ; and that the pro- 
curators of San Marco would not raise her rent of 
fifteen ducats, either to her or her successors." 


The ladies of Siena were noted for their pluck. In 
that last heroic siege of 1554 the Gascon general, 
Blaise de Monluc, pays them this testimony : 

" It shall never be, you ladies of Siena, that I will 
not immortalise your names so long as the Book of 
Monluc shall live ; for in truth you are worthy of im- 
mortal praise if ever women were. At the beginning 
of the noble resolution these people took to defend their 
liberty, all the ladies of Siena divided themselves into 
three squadrons ; the first led by Signora Forteguerra, 
who was herself clad in violet, as also those of her 
train, her attire being cut in the fashion of a nymph, 
short, and discovering her buskins; the second was 
the Signora Piccolomini, attired in carnation satin, and 
her troop in the same livery ; the third was the Signora 
Livia Fausta, apparelled all in white, as also her train, 
with her white ensign. In their ensigns they had very 
fine devices. . . . These three squadrons consisted of 
three thousand ladies, gentlewomen and 'citoyennes' ; 
their arms were picks, shovels, baskets and bavins; 
and in this equipage they made the muster, and 
went to begin the fortifications. . . . Never was there 
so fine a sight. . . ," 

We can well believe it, for when did warriors ever 
go forth in so gay and gallant a spirit, save in dauntless, 
ardent Siena ? 

There would be death to face, wounds to bind up, 
and much patient nursing would fall to the share of 
these fantastic " nymphs." This leads us to the subject 
of sickness and medicine in the olden days. We have 
already seen that the first great requisite for a physician 
was that he should be "fortunate in his profession." 
It was also desirable that he should practise astrology, 


more especially in princely houses, or he would lead 
but a sorry life. He points to his phials in vain ; 
" against death he has no medicine." 

Every woman could brew simples, bind a broken 
limb, nurse a fever, and dabble a little in medicine. 
These were some of the most popular drugs : Bark of 
Indian wood, turpentine, poppy, mustard, myrrh, 
wormwood, lichen, peppermint and aniseed water, 
Quassia amara, essence of cinnamon, camphor, hops, 
rue, privet, crocus, marjoram, figs, honey, and much 
sulphur. Coughs were cured by milk of almonds 
mixed with sugar and starch, barley sugar, tea of roses 
and camomile, and infusions of mallow, violet, &c. ; 
in short, most of the favourite French "tisanes" of 
to-day. Another remedy for a cough was to "take the 
lungs of a fox and wash it with wine, and dry it in a 
furnace to a cinder ; then powder it and mix well with 
yolk of egg." 

The Sun was supposed to govern the heart and 
nerves, Jupiter the liver, and Venus the rest of the 

Complete discord reigned in the scientific world 
with regard to the treatment of disease ; the physicians 
opposed the surgeons and apothecaries, and such 
terms as "fool" and "mountebank" were freely 
bestowed. Paris remained faithful to the traditional 
and philosophic spirit, while Paracelsus burnt the 
works of Galen and Avicenna. 
■J "A certain pious author advised that the doors of the 
medical school should be thrown open freely to women, 
that they should be taught all that men were taught, 
indeed, a little more — Greek and Arabic — and that 
they should then be sent off to the Holy Land to aid 


in the conversion of the infidels." Did he see from afar 
the mission of medical women to the Zenanas ? 

But the ruling principle in illness, with both men 
and women, was to keep up the patient's spirits. We 
can quite understand this, when we think of the un- 
healthy conditions of life, and of that terrible scourge, 
the Plague, which recurred six times between 1348 to 
the end of the fifteenth century. Fear or melancholy 
would be a certain precursor of death. 

People were strongly impressed with the necessity of 
keeping in good health ; and to this end they were to 
eat well, to avoid damp, to spend generously without 
stint or economy, to refrain from melancholy or gloom, 
not to think of dull, sorrowful things, but to play, ride, 
and amuse themselves ; in short, to be happy. As we 
have noticed before, on receiving news of a friend's 
illness, the greatest charity was at once to send a pet 
dwarf or jester to the sick-room, and do anything to 
amuse the patient. 

The Cardinal d'Este, hearing that his sister Isabella 
was ill at Mantua, in 1507, sent Ariosto to read his 
" Orlando Furioso " to the sick lady as he sat by her 
bedside. Happily she recovered. 

We cannot leave the subject of sickness without 
touching upon that of poison, which was supposed to 
account for so many deaths, being so difficult of proof 
in former days. Doubtless, in many cases the suspicion 
was justified ; but in any sudden illness it was always 
the first cry of ignorance. Our worthy old Fuller, in 
writing of his special incarnation of evil, Caesar Borgia, 
remarks : " He exactly knew the operations of all hot 
and cold poysons, which would surprise nature on a 
sudden, and which would weary it out with a long 


siege; for in truth Italians have poysoning at their 
fingers end. This Caesar could contract a ioo toads 
into one drop, and cunningly infuse the same into any 
pleasant liquour." There was a notorious poison used 
in Italy in the seventeenth century, called "aqua 
tofana," made by a woman of Palermo. Four to six 
drops was a fatal dose, and it has since been discovered 
to have been a solution of arsenic. 

Closely akin to poisons were the various potions 
obtained from witches and Egyptians, for securing good 
luck, or as love philtres, or antidotes to love. These 
were often used for evil purposes, and bore the name 
of "selling the devil in bottles." Opium was used to 
produce delightful dreams ; nightshade gave pleasant 
illusions. Witches were reputed to indulge in midnight 
orgies, and were constantly consulted by people who 
wanted to have their fortunes told ; they were also 
believed to bring hail and rain, and to cure diseases by 
means of amulets and charms. 

The boundless ambition of Julius II. was said to 
spring from the prediction of a sorceress, who had told 
him to be of good cheer, for he would be elected Pope, 
and rule the world. Astrology was in high favour, and 
Savonarola fought in vain against it. The Roman pre- 
lates, the great soldiers and sovereign princes, such as 
Lodovico Sforza and Francesco of Mantua, never 
moved a step without consulting the stars. The Court 
astrologer was a man of considerable influence and 
position, usually a foreigner, and often a Moor or gipsy. 
His occupation was most lucrative, and a great opening 
for ambition, as no public ceremony or journey was 
ever undertaken without his permission. He puts on 
airs and keeps his clients waiting. If some one sends 


him a birth date to have his horoscope cast, he sends 
no reply ; " his eyes are weary with gazing into the 
boundless heavens." 

But there are certain risks. As, for instance, when 
Messer Arabrogia da Rosate, the Duke of Milan's 
favourite astrologer and physician, after careful study 
fixed a day for the wedding journey of Bianca Sforza, 
the bride of the Emperor Maximilian, a terrible storm 
nearly wrecked the whole party. " Infelice ! " was the 
mildest term applied to the unlucky astrologer ; but we 
may remark, as some slight excuse for him, that the 
wedding journey, across the Lake of Como and over 
the passes of the Alps, had to be undertaken in the 
midst of a severe winter. 

We cannot close the story of a woman's life in the 
days of the Renaissance, without touching on the subject 
of her religion. 

In ihe earlier days of the period, little girls still went 
to church every day, and worked chasubles and altar- 
cloths. At Florence we find Lucrezia dei Medici, a 
devout woman, given to good works ; taking her little 
son Lorenzo to vespers with her every evening, in the 
Dominican church of San Paolino. Her "rime sacre," 
written for her children, are preserved to us, charming 
in their simplicity, delicate little Christian carols. In 
the next generation, the great complaint of the learned 
tutor Poliziano against Lorenzo's wife Clarice, was 
that she wanted the boy Piero to sing hymns when 
he should have been learning Greek, and that she 
interfered with the lessons of the four-year-old Gio- 
vanni (afterwards Pope Leo X.) by keeping him to 
read the Psalter. No great event can take place with- 
out the sanction and benediction of the Church. A 


baptism, a marriage, a funeral — they are each the 
occasion of a stately and splendid pageant. 

The progress of the Renaissance brought a changed 
outlook in thought and feeling, although in Italy it was 
not greatly complicated by the religious reform which 
shook the rest of Europe. Thus an Italian chronicler 
can write: "At that time, in the furthest part of 
Germany, the abominable and infamous name of 
Martin Luther began to be heard." 

A new feeling pervaded the whole of intellectual life 
and " widened the sundering of the Church's claims 
and the joy of life. St. Augustine's dream of a city of 
God waxed pale and faint, like a student's midnight 
taper." The Renaissance, with all its mysticism, 
was not partial to the dim religious light or shadowed 
mysteries : it loved clearness, daylight, illumination. 
For a brief space all Italy was moved by the tremendous 
question of Savonarola : " Was not the soul the one 
thing more precious than the sin-stained body ? Was 
it not greater than the living world ? Was not the 
true path to heaven that of sacrifice, and consecration 
of every thought and every passion to the inner mystic 

Like Felix, they heard and trembled, but no mediaeval 
teaching could reach those men and women of the 
Renaissance, and bring them back to the faith of their 
forefathers. Yet, if fewer splendid cathedrals were 
built and not so many convents were endowed as in 
the earlier days, there was no lack of deep and strong 
religious feeling. Amongst the writings of Vittoria 
Colonna we read such words as these : 

" With a cable of love and fidelity welded together 
1 fasten my barque to a never-yielding rock, to Christ, 


the living stone, whereby I may at any time return to 
port" She was not alone, for Vergerio, the Pope's 
nuncio in France, writes : " Praise be to God who in 
our troublous times hath raised up such intelligences 
— here the Queen of Navarre, of whom I speak ; at 
Ferrara, the lady Ren6e of France ; at Urbino the lady 
Leonora Gonzaga, with whom I conversed for some 
hours, and who seemed to me endowed with eminently 
lofty minds, filled with charity, all on fire with Christ ; 
at Rome the lady Vittoria Colonna — to speak of none 
but your own sex." 

We cannot do better than end with the words 
of Gebhardt: "The astonishing intellectual freedom 
with which Italy treated dogma and discipline; the 
serenity, she was able to preserve in face of the great 
mystery of life and death ; the art she devoted to the 
reconciliation of faith with rationalism ; her dallyings 
with formal heresy, and the audacities of her mystic 
imagination; the enthusiasm of love, which often 
carried her up to the loftiest Christian ideal — such was 
the religion of Italy in the Renaissance." 








1430. Birth of Lucrezia Tornabnoni. 

1447. Marriage of Piero dei Medici, son of Cosimo, to 

Lucrezia Tornabuoni. 

1448. Birth of Lorenzo dei Medici, January 1. 

143 1. Alfonso of Naples and the Republic of Venice joined 

against Milan and Florence. 
1 454 . Capture of Constantinople by the Turks, who threatened 

Italy. Under guarantee of the Pope, a league formed 

between the sovereigns of Naples and Milan, and 

the Republics of Florence and Venice, to preserve 

1464. Death of Cosimo dei Medici, after a glorious rule of 

thirty years. Succeeded by his son Piero. 
1469. Marriage of Lorenzo, son of Piero, to Clarice Orsini. 
1469. State visit of Lorenzo dei Medici to Milan, to the 

christening of the Duke's son, Gian Galeazzo. 
„ Death of Piero. His son, Lorenzo the Magnificent, 

succeeds him. 
1472. The Turks first appeared in Italy, at Friuli. 

1478. Conspiracy of the Pazzi, who murdered Giuliano dei 

Medici, brother of Lorenzo, in the Duomo of 

1479. Madonna Clarice dismisses the tutor Poliziano. 

1485. Lorenzo dei Medici and Lodovico Sfbrza of Milan 
make alliance with Ferdinand, King of Naples, 
against the Pope. Battle of Lamentana, gained by 
the Duke of Calabria, son of Ferdinand. 

1487. Death of Clarice dei Medici. 

1490. Public faith and credit of Florence violated to save 
Lorenzo dei Medici from bankruptcy. 

1492. Death of Lorenzo the Magnificent He is succeeded 
by his son Piero, who in 1487 married Alfonsina 


Lucrezia (Tornabtioni) dei Medici, was the wife of 
Piero dei Medici. As we look upon the portrait, by 
Sandro Botticelli, of this gracious lady, we see her 
once more as she lived in those bygone days of the 
Renaissance ; we seem to read her character and 
pierce the very secret of her soul. The thoughtful 
brow, the calm steadfast eyes, the firm delicate chin, 
the sweet placid mouth, even the erect stately bearing, 
all speak of that noble woman, the mother of Lorenzo 
the Magnificent, to whom he owed so much. 

Lucrezia was one of the Tornabuoni family, those 
merchant princes of Florence from whose proud 
energetic stock she seemed to have inherited the more 
homely virtues, which do not always flourish in a 
palace. She was a clear-eyed, high-minded woman of 
business, and ever her son's wisest and most trusted 
counsellor. Her political insight was keen and just ; 
indeed, there were not wanting those who said that her 
princely alms, her endowments of poor convents, her 
dowries to orphan girls, were all so many bids for 

Yet surely in this they wronged her, for her cha- 
racter was deeply religious, and she devoted herself 
with special care to the pious bringing up of her 
children. She even wrote hymns for them which 



are high in the rank of spiritual poems ; and one of 
Lorenzo's earliest memories, was his daily attendance 
with her at vespers, in the Dominican church of San 
Paolina, of which his friend, the learned Poliziano, was 
afterwards curate. 

At the same time, Lucrezia had broad news, and a 
love for literature and art, which we should expect 
from the sister of that Giovanni Tornabuoni, who com- 
missioned Ghirlandajo to paint the marvellous frescoes 
in the choir of Santa Maria Novella. Here we find a 
vivid illustration of the Florentine life, in which Lucrezia 
herself bore so dignified a part. 

In this great series of the Life of the Virgin and of 
St. John the Baptist, the artist makes the charming ana- 
chronism of representing the public and official life of 
the Tornabuoni, their processions and stately ban- 
quets. We recognise them crowding to the temple 
court, or seated as guests at Herod's feast, with their 
kinsmen, the partners in the Medici bank, and their 
learned friends, amongst whom Angelo Poliziano is 

But still more picturesque and striking is it to see 
the young Tornabuoni bride, Giovanna, in her rare 
jewels and stiff brocaded dress, accompanied by her 
ladies in rich attire, entering the chamber where the 
mother of the Virgin lies on her couch, and her friends 
wish her joy. 

Lucrezia dei Medici was herself a patroness of 
literature also ; and to her encouragement we owe the 
poem " Morgante," rich in description and even pathos, 
leading the way for Tasso and Ariosto, while in its 
humour we see a foreshadowing of Cervantes' greater 
work. The work had grown from verses sung or 


recited at the table of the Medici, but Luigi Pulci was 
overbold for his day, and his great romance was con- 
demned by the Pope, and burnt by Savonarola in the 
Pyramid of Vanities. 

For those troublous times of feud and faction, the 
story of Madonna Lucrezia was peaceful and unevent- 
ful. During most of her married life her father-in- 
law, Cosimo il Vecchio, was the head of the house of 
Medici, and with him, the scarlet gown of a Florentine 
citizen was but a vain symbol of humility for the 
despotic ruler of the Commune. 

Yet on a certain morning of August, in the year 
1458, the young wife must have needed all her courage. 
She was spending the summer with her children in the 
princely villa of Cafaggiuolo, far beyond Fiesole, amid 
the slopes of the Apennines, when Piero was sum- 
moned to join his father in Florence for a great coup 
ditai, of which the result was more than doubtful. 
As she watched him ride away beneath the plane- 
trees, followed by his armed retainers and a motley 
throng of peasants from the Mugello, devoted to the 
Medici, her heart must have been heavy with dark 

In Florence the great bell of the palace tolled, and 
the piazza was thronged with the excited populace, 
while on each side was posted an army of horse and 
loot soldiers. It must have been an anxious moment 
for Cosimo and Piero within the walls, when the 
Signoria appeared on their platform outside the palace, 
the Chancellor read the proposal for the Balla, and 
the list of the 350 members proposed by the ruling 
faction. But, to the amazement of the Milanese 
Podesta, there was no disturbance; the people shouted 


assent, and the danger of a popular revolution was at 
an end. Henceforth the power of the Medici was 

Cosimo lived six years after this, but broken in 
health, and his spirit clouded by the loss of his favourite 
son Giovanni, he appeared but little in public. He 
was succeeded by his only surviving son Piero, who 
was inferior to him in every way, and did not inherit 
his popularity. He was surnamed " II Gottoso," from 
his bad health, and showed little talent as a politician. 
Indeed, he would have been more suited to the quiet 
life of a merchant, than that of a great ruler and patron 
of the arts ; and the five years of his nominal rule 
were chiefly spent in retirement, in the Villa Careggi, 
built by Michelozzi in the most lovely situation, a few 
miles to the north of Florence. The gardens are still 
exquisitely beautiful, and we can imagine Mona 
Lucrezia's leisure spent amidst her books and her 
flowers, while her more serious thoughts were given 
to the education of her children, still continued under 
the guidance of the famous humanist Gentile de' 
Becchi, and especially to the constant watchful counsel 
of her sons, Lorenzo and Giuliano, now the practical 
representatives of the dynasty. 

This must have been a gay time for Florence, with 
these two brilliant youths as masters of the revels ; 
and even in these early days, Macchiavelli attributes 
to the lad of fifteen, the deliberate design of corrupting 
the State by pandering to its senses. But Lorenzo, 
with his keen zest for animal enjoyment, tempered by 
artistic beauty, was only a type of his city and his 
age. Constant festivals were the order of the day, 
from the triumphs and masquerades in the streets to 


carnival songs, and country dances, and sacred repre- 

We read of a great tournament given in the play- 
ground of Florence, the vast oblong piazza of Santa 
Croce, in the year 1467, where Lorenzo was first 

I attracted by Lucrezia Donati, a brilliant, highly 
cultured girl, of the same family as the wife of Dante, 
We can still see her beautiful face with its delicate 
refined features and rippling hair, in a portrait of 
Andrea Verocchio, and we hear of her later as the bride 
of Niccolo Ardinghelli. On this occasion the lady 
gave Lorenzo a wreath of violets, and he promised her 
in return, a still more splendid tournament. 

In the meantime, his mother Lucrezia thought that 
the time had arrived for a marriage to be arranged for 
him. There must have been long and anxious con- 
sideration on the subject, for Piero does not seem to 
have been content to wed his son with the daughter of 
a citizen of Florence ; he would choose a lady froin 
some princely house of another State. His choice fell 
upon the great Orsini family, whose possessions spread 
from Rome, far and wide, joining those of the Colonna 
to the east, and extending from the sea to the Apen- 

It was characteristic of her loving caution that M una 
Lucrezia herself took the important journey to Rome, 
that she might make all inquiries on the spot with 
regard to the young girl's qualifications, other than 

t those of wealth and position. She seems to have been 
well satisfied with all she heard, and to have convinced 
herself that Clarice Orsini would be, in behaviour and 
beauty, a suitable bride for her young hero. 
The story of Clarice will be told hereafter. On 


Lucrezia's return to Florence she must have been pre- 
sent at the promised tournament, which was publicly 
announced as being held in honour of the coming 
marriage. But it is a significant fact that, as an old 
chronicler tells us, "It was the name of the lady Lucrezia 
Donati which was on the lips of all the lookers-on and 
in the heart of Lorenzo, and not that of the Roman 
bride, Clarice Orsini." It was a gorgeous spectacle. 
We hear of the ten young men on horseback and the 
sixty-four on foot, all clad in complete suits of armour, 
who followed in the procession, with an array of drums 
and fifes and trumpeters. Young Medici himself wore 
a surcoat of velvet fringed with gold and adorned by 
the golden lilies of France upon an azure ground, and 
a helmet with three blue feathers. His horse was 
decked out in red and white velvet, embroidered with 
pearls. The prize was assigned to him, and this is 
how he modestly mentions the fact in his own 
memoir : 

"That I might do as others, and follow the custom, 
on the Piazza Santa Croce 1 gave a tournament at 
great cost and with much magnificence ; about ten 
thousand ducats were spent upon it. I was not a very 
mighty warrior nor a strong striker, yet to me was 
assigned the first prize, a helmet inlaid with silver, 
having a figure of Mars on the crest." 

His marriage took place the following year, when he 
was only nineteen ; but he seems to have remained as 
devoted as ever to his mother. His three sisters were 
already provided with husbands, the first obligation 
of a parent in the Italy of those days. Maria was mar- 
ried to Lionetta de' Rossi ; Bianca, his favourite, was 
the wife of Guglielmo Pazzi ; and in 1466 the youngest, 


Nannma, was married lo Bernardo Rucellai, She 
seems to have been a lively girl with strong religious 
feelings, and we are told of her strenuous efforts to 
convert the mercurial Pulci, a constant guest at her 
father's table, to more devout thought and a stricter 
life. In his merry jests and in his sonnets, he laughed 
at sacred things, and although he would recant in his 
"Confessions," yet it does not appear that Nannina's 
exhortations had any permanent effect upon his 

Bernardo seems to have been a most desirable 
husband, if we are to judge from his high character, 
intellect, refinement, and passionate love for his 
beautiful gardens. An interesting story is told of 
him that, under the influence of Lorenzo, who was 
a champion of the Italian tongue, he refused to write 
to Erasmus in Latin, much to the embarrassment of 
his correspondent, who never would learn Italian lest 
his Latin style should be spoilt. 

We next hear of Mona Lucrezia, when her son had 
gone to Milan, in July 1469, to be godfather to the baby 
Giovanni Galeazzo. He writes from thence : " I have 
given to the Duchess a gold necklace with a large 
diamond, worth about three thousand ducats. In con- 
sequence the Duke wishes rae to stand for all his future 

Lorenzo, indeed, was so much feted and flattered 
during his visit, that he was disposed to go beyond 
his credentials. Piero was willing that his son should 
take the first place at home, but he kept a strict hold on 
his foreign relations. He entrusted his wife with the 
delicate task of warning her son not to act on his own 
account, as though he were head of the State. "Tell 


liim that while I live, I will not permit that the goslings 
should lead the geese to drink." 

The lesson may have been needed, but the young 
Lorenzo was learning his part, and preparing for the 
high position which was so soon to be his. Piero 
died in December 1469, aged and infirm beyond his 
years, for he was but fifty-three. He wished for a 
quiet funeral, and his desire was carried out by his 
widow and sons. His monument may still be seen in 
the old sacristy of San Lorenzo, of simple grandeur, 
the work of Verocchio — an urn of red porphyry with a 
dark inlaid plaque of green marble and great acanthus 
leaves round the sides. The urn is fastened by ropes 
of bronze, and the cords pass behind the tomb to the 
ceiling of the niche. 

After her husband's death, Mona Lucrezia seems to 
have lived in retirement in her beautiful villa near 
Florence, with its delightful gardens, full of the choicest 
flowers and fruit. In the year 1476 we find her little 
grandson, Piero, then barely five years old, writing to 
her from the Villa of Cafaggiuolo : " Send us some 
more ripe figs, I mean those very ripe ones, and send 
us some peaches with their kernels, and other of those 
things which you know we like, sweetmeats and tarts 
and some such little things." 

From the somewhat masterful tone of this letter we 
seem to gather that the small boy had great confidence 
in the indulgence of his grandmother, who had never 
spoilt her own children. Although there cannot have 
been much sympathy between this cultivated woman 
and her daughter-in-law, Clarice Orsini dei Medici, yet 
she appears to have been on the most friendly terms 
with her. Mona Lucrezia kept up an interesting corre- 


spondence with the learned Agnolo Poliziano, who 
writes thus to her on one occasion when tutor to 
Lorenzo's children, and imprisoned by bad weather in 
the cold Mugello : 

"The only news I can send you is, that we have 
here such continual rains that it is impossible to quit 
the house, and the exercises of the country are changed 
for childish sports within doors. Here I stand by the 
fireside, in my great coat and slippers, that you might 
take me for the very figure of Melancholy. Indeed I 
am the same at all times; for I neither see, nor hear, 
nor do anything that gives me pleasure, so much am I 
affected by the thought of our calamities ; sleeping 
and waking they still continue to haunt me. Two days 
since we were all rejoicing upon hearing that the 
plague had ceased; now we are depressed on being 
informed that some symptoms of it yet remain. Were 
we at Florence we should have some consolation, 
were it only that of seeing Lorenzo when he returned 
to his house ; but here we are in continual anxiety, and 
1, for my part, am half dead with solitude and weariness. 
The plague and the war are incessantly in my mind. 
1 lament past misfortunes and anticipate future evils, 
and I have no longer at my side my dear Madonna 
Lucrezia, to whom I might unbosom my cares." 

In the allusion to the "calamities" and " troubles " 
and also in Poliziano's anxiety about Lorenzo, wc 
must understand a reference to the terrible, heart- 
breaking calamity which overshadowed with gloom 
the closing years of Mona Lucrezia's life — the murder 
of her passionately loved son Giuliano. Of this dark 


stain on the page of history, a brief account w: 
sufficient in these pages. 

In the conspiracy o( the Pazzi against the Medici, 
a shameful plot hatched at Rome, the young and 
gallant Giuliano, the idol of the populace, fell a victim 
within the sacred precincts of the Duomo. During 
the Mass, while the solemn strains of the Agnus Dei 
echoed through the choir, the dagger of the assassin 
pierced his heart as he stood by the Chapel of 
the Holy Cross. No circumstance was wanting to 
aggravate the sacrilege. As the wounded man stag- 
gered forwards and fell, he was pierced again and 
again. Nineteen wounds were found upon his body. 

Assailed by a priest, who struck too high and missed, 
Lorenzo escaped. He had time to draw his sword, 
his friends rallied round him, and there was a deadly 
tight in the choir itself, while the terror-stricken 
Cardinal crouched by the high altar. The fugitives 
reached the northern sacristy, and, in face of the 
pursuers, closed the heavy bronze gates of Luca della 

The plot had failed, for henceforth the power of the 
Medici was assured, and a fearful vengeance awaited 
the conspirators in torture and hanging. The whole 
house of the Pazzi was disqualified from office — their 
very name was accursed. No citizen might marry a 
daughter or sister of the condemned, their palaces were 
looted, their scutcheons were hacked from the walls. 

The beloved Giuliano was borne to his grave in San 
Lorenzo, on Ascension Day, with the pathetic honour 
of a people's grief. He had been beloved of all, a 
picturesque and striking personality. Skilled in all 
athletic pursuits, for which he was so well suited 1 



his tall, magnificent figure, he was also n courteous, 
refined gentleman, who delighted in music and pictures, 
and all beautiful things. He wrote poetry, as was the 
fashion of his day ; he could hold his own in the gay 
witty company at his brother's table ; he was a faithful 
friend and a devoted son and brother." 

With this brief elegy to her youngest son, we will 
leave the story of the noble Mona Lucrezia dei Medici, 
well assured that her later years were sweetened and 
comforted by the unchanging love and respect of 
Lorenzo the Magnificent, by the duties and wide 
charities of her high position, and by that keen 
devotion to learning and literature which outlives 
all other tastes. 

I cannot resist the temptation of inserting two of 
those "spiritual poems" of Madonna Lucrezia which 
she wrote for her children. In their charming sim- 
plicity and naive devotional feeling they bear a strong 
resemblance to some of our old English carols. 


Venife Pastori 
A veder Gesu, cli' e n.ito 
Nel Presepio ignudo nato, 
Piii che '1 Sole risplendente. 

Venite prestamente 

A vedere il bel Messia 
Col Giuseppe coo Maria 
La sua Madre gloriosa. 

* Giuliano died unmarried, but a posthumous son was born to 
him, who was adopted by Lorenzo, and subsequently became 
Pope Clement VII. 


Ma ii')]] I'u si preziosa 
Cteatura, ni mai fi a ; 
Evvi ancora in corapagnia 
Solo il Inn"- 1 1 1'asinello, 

Pezzc, fasce, ne mantello 

Non ha' 1 Signer de' Signori ; 
E dal Ciel discendon cori 
Per veder la Deitate. 

Quivi vien le Poiestate 

Quivi viene & Cherubim 
Le Virtu, e Serafini, 
Con tutta la Gcrarchia 

E con doke melodia 

Ringraziandol con disio : 
Gloria in Cielo all' alio Dio 
E in terra pace sia. 

O Pastor venite via 

EI Signore a visitare 
Vo' sent irate cantare, 

E vedrate il Re di Gloria. 

Oggi .'ilili dull. i vlttoria. 
Che' 1 nimico fia dolente, 
E li Padri allegramentc 
Sentiranno tal novella. 

Apparita e una Stella 

Tutto' 1 Mondo all urn mare ; 
Venite a ringraziare 
Gesu Christo omnipotente. 

Tutte le devote mente 

Contemplando con dolcczza 
Come la divina altezza 
Patir vuol pe' nostri errori.* 

* To be sung to the tune of " Quaudo sono in ijuesta Ciltade." 



Ecco il Re forte 

Ecoo il Re forte ; 

Aprite quelle porte ; 
O Principe infernale ; 

Non fate re&istenxa 

GH e il Re celestiale 

Che vien con gran potenxa ; 

Fategli riverenza 

Levate via le porte. 

Ecco il Re forte ! ecco il Re forte ! 

Chi e qnesto potente 

Che vien con tal vittoria ? 
Egli e Signor possente 
Egli e Signor di Gloria 
Avnto ha la vittoria 
Egli ha vinto la morte. 

Ecco il Re forte ! ecco il Re forte I 

Egli ha vinto la gnerra 

Durati gia molt 'anni ; 
E fa tremar la terra, 
Per cavarci d' affanni, 
Riempier vnol gli scanni 
Per ristorar sua Corte. 

Ecco il Re forte ! ecco il Re forte 

• • • 

* To be sung to the tune of " Ben Venga Maggio." 



The wife of Lorenzo dei Medici should have had a 
position unique amidst the ladies of the Renaissance, 
yet Clarice appears to have been somewhat over- 
weighted by it. She was the daughter of Giacopo 
Orsini, of the noble and powerful Roman family, 
whose great possessions spread over half a province, 
and her mother was of the still more distinguished line 
of the Bracciano, a sister of the splendid Napoleone. 
Her uncles were amongst the most influential cardinals 
in the Curia, and her soldier family was rich in great 
military captains. 

This was the first of the foreign alliances of the 
Medici, and had many advantages, besides the more 
obvious one of giving them influence at the Papal 
Court. The Orsini were traditional enemies of the rival 
republic of Siena ; they could bring a large force into 
the field, and were in possession of a chain of strong- 
holds which crossed the high road to the south, and 
would be invaluable in case of home or foreign attacks. 

Had Piero chosen a bride for his son in Florence, 
it would have caused endless jealousy and offence. 
Lorenzo himself seems to have had very little choice 
in the matter, but he had seen the lady more than 
once, and had acquiesced in the choice. She had also 
met with his mother's approval. 


Clarice is described as having a tall shapely figure 
and a delicate white neck, but her carriage was some- 
what ungraceful, from a shy habit of bending her head 
forward. Her face was too round for classical beauty, 
but she had apink-and-white colour, and her abundant 
haii shone with a ruddy glow. We are specially told 
that her hands were pretty, with long well-shaped 
fingers. No doubt they were skilled in all the elaborate 
embroidery and fine needlework of the times, for 
Clarice does not appear to have been highly edu- 
cated, according to the Medici standard, in classical 
learning and philosophy. Yet her stately home at 
Monte Rotondo, outside the Porta Pia, had been a 
local centre of Renaissance culture in the previous 
century, and it was unfortunate for her future happi- 
ness that the young girl was dependent on chance 
visits to her uncle, Cardinal Latino, for any training 
in art and literature. 

One of her earliest letters to Lorenzo has been 
preserved : 

" I have received your letter which has given me 
great pleasure, and in which you tell me of the tourna- 
ment where you won the prize. I am glad that you 
are successful in what gives you pleasure, and that my 
prayer is heard, for I have no other wish than to see 
you happy. Give my regards to my father Piero and 
my mother Lucrezia, and all who are near to you. 
At the same time 1 send my regards to you. I have 
nothing else to say. 

" Yours, 

"Clarice de Ursinis." 


Simple words, doubtless written with much thought 
and anxiety. 

The betrothal took place in December 1468, and in 
the following May Clarice was brought to Florence. 
The marriage was celebrated on Sunday, June 4, and 
the festivities lasted for several days. There is a curious 
little note in the Ricordi of Lorenzo on that date : 

" I, Lorenzo, took for wife Clarice, daughter of the 
Lord Giacopo, or rather she was given to me." 

It was doubtless a marriage of state, but there is 
every reason to believe that a real affection grew up 
between husband and wife, for there is much simple, 
tender feeling in the numerous letters preserved, and 
Lorenzo always treated her with courtesy and kindness. 

We have a very full account of the great festivities in 
Florence at the wedding, which was celebrated with 
hue princely prodigality. The dress of the bride was 
of the richest white-and-gold brocade, and the splendid 
horse she rode in the procession, was a gift from the 
royal stables of Naples. She had other rich presents 
and great wedding-chests ; but it may be mentioned 
here as a significant fact, that she received no dowry. 
No doubt the proud house of the Orsini was of opinion 
that the lady herself was sufficient to bestow on the 
son of the great banking-house of Florence. The 
relative position had changed some years later, when 
her own son Piero married another Orsini, for then a 
very large dowry was part of the contract. 

But, all the same, Clarice was royally welcomed. 
Pipers and trumpeters, and a gallant train of noble 
youths and fair maidens bore her company. In the 
palace of the Via Larga an immense ball-room was 
made ready to receive the bride, hung with tapestry. 


adorned with the arms and devices of the Orsini and 
Medici families, and covered with priceless Eastern 
carpets. On this occasion the ladies and knights, the 
old and young, seemed to have dined apart. Clarice 
and fifty of the younger ladies had the broad balcony 
above the garden, while the older matrons dined with 
Madonna Lucrezia in the inner chamber. Round the 
courtyard were places for seventy of the more grave 
and reverend citizens, while the hall was given up to 
all the young gallants. On the ring of tables, costly 
wine stood in immense vessels of brass. 

More than a thousand guests were entertained each 
day at the Via Larga, and in the house of Carlo dei 

Lorenzo's ingenuity devised the most gorgeous 
spectacles lo amuse the people. There were mimic 
battles, in which troops of horsemen in armour charged 
each other, and a fort was built up, to be picturesquely 
attacked and stoutly defended. There was music and 
dancing, and probably some of the songs to which the 
dancers kept time as they sang, were composed by the 
young poet himself. 

Wc will not dwell further on the details of the 
banquets, as the full description of a great wedding 
feast is given in a previous chapter. 

Soon after his marriage, the bridegroom went on a 
journey to Milan, from whence he writes as follows : 

" I HAVE arrived here safely and am quite well. 
This, 1 believe, will please you better than any other 
news, if I may judge by my own longings for you and 
home. Be good company to Piero, Mona Confessing, 
and Mona Lucrezia, and 1 will soon come back to you, 


for it seems a thousand years till I can see you once 
more. Pray to God for me, and if there is anything 
you want, let me know before 1 leave. 
■ Your own 

" Lorenzo dei Medici. 
" Milan, July 22, 1469." 

The death of Piero dei Medici in December of the 
same year, must have made a difference in the position 
of his young daughter-in-law. It was a critical time 
for Lorenzo ; but when, on the morrow, he and his 
brother received the unanimous petition of the citizens 
" that they would assume the place vacated by their 
father," the Medici took their stand as "signori 
naturali," born-lords of Italy. Then, indeed, Clarice 
became the first lady, I will not say the uncrowned 
queen, of Florence, for the fact was simply accepted 
without assertion or ostentation. 

A very difficult task was before the young ruler, but 
he seems to have behaved on the whole with great 
wisdom and tact. Naturally impatient and hasty, yet 
his sister Bianca spoke of him in after years, as recon- 
ciling the malcontents of his father's rule with infinite 
patience. The drudgery of that complicated political 
government must have been sometimes an intolerable 
burden. He had all the literary and artistic tastes 
which he might have enjoyed in leisured wealth ; he 
loved the country, and keenly enjoyed the company of 
men of letters and artists. But most of these pleasures 
he had to sacrifice to his ruling passion of ambition. 

The young bride, fresh from seclusion in the home 

of her girlhood, must have found it difficult to play 

her part in this new literary society of Florence. 



It may have been a welcome change when she had to 
receive, in March 1471, the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo 
Sforza, and the Duchess Bona, who came with such a 
display of wealth and luxury that they brought 2000 
persons in their suite. They consisted of 100 men-at- 
arms and 500 infantry as a guard, fifty running foot- 
men richly dressed in silk and silver, and many 
noblemen and courtiers and their different retinues, 
Five hundred couple of dogs, with an immense number 
of hawks and falcons, completed this astounding show. 
It is said that this arrogant and pretentious excursion 
cost Galeazzo 200,000 golden ducats. 

It was well for his hosts that this army of retainers 
was entertained at the public expense. This visit of 
state was probably made in return for that paid by 
Lorenzo, two years before, when he stood godfather 
for the ill-fated baby, Gian Galeazzo, and gave the 
mother a splendid gold necklace with a great diamond 
pendant. If she wore it on this occasion, Clarice must 
have looked at it with a touch of envy. 

Grandeur like misery brings strange company, and 
we cannot but wonder what sympathy there was 
between these two great ladies. Bona of Savoy, whose 
youth had been spent with her sister, the Queen of 
Louis XI., at the French Court, and who for some years 
had been the wife of such a profligate and cruel man as 
Galeazzo, must have had far other experiences than the 
simple Roman girl-wife, whose first baby was barely a 
month old. 

Those men of the Renaissance were often a strange 

combination. This Duke of Milan, whom chronicles 

of the day describe as another Nero in his crimes, was 

a great patron of art and learning, founded a library 

65 ■ 


and collected singers from all Europe to form the 
choir of his chapel. He is said once to have insisted 
that his artists, under pain of death, should paint a hall 
in the Castello of Pavia with portraits of the whole 
ducal family in a single night. 

Such was the visitor of Lorenzo, and we are not 
surprised to learn that he professed great admiration 
for the splendid art treasures of the Medici. He was 
shown the famous statues, vases, intaglios, and gems, 
the priceless collection of manuscripts and drawings, 
the paintings of the greatest masters the world has 
ever seen, and he seems to have had the good taste or 
the tact to exclaim that, " in comparison with what he 
had seen, gold and silver lost their value." 

Machiavelli speaks with horror of the riot and dis- 
sipation of the Milanese guests, but the remark comes 
somewhat strangely from him that " this was the first 
time Florence openly disregarded the command not to 
eat flesh in Lent." 

For the entertainment of the visitors, there were three 
extraordinary public spectacles. First, the Annuncia- 
tion of the Virgin, then the Ascension of Christ, and 
lastly the Descent of the Holy Spirit. This was acted 
in the Church of St. Spirito, and in the unskilled use of 
many flaring lights, the sacred building caught fire and 
was entirely destroyed. 

The accident was of course ascribed by the people 
to the wrath of heaven. 

During the years which followed, Clarice must have 
been almost entirely engaged with her family of young 
children, to whom she was a devoted, if somewhat 
injudicious mother. Some of these died in infancy, 
but three sons and four daughters lived to grow up. 


These boys were destined to have so great a future 
that everything connected with their early history is 
intensely interesting, and fortunately the records of the 
time give us a very full account of them. The picture 
of life in the Medici household is very simple and 
pleasant. Lorenzo was devoted to his children, he 
was never so happy as in their company, in the villas of 
Caiano or Careggi ; he played with them, rode with them, 
joined in their music, and even wrote a little play for 
them to act. But above all he took the keenest interest 
in their education, a matter on which the unlearned 
Clarice had quite different ideas, and which seems to 
have been almost the only cause of discord between 
them. The renowned and learned Agnolo Poliziano 
was persuaded by Lorenzo, to whom he owed every- 
thing, to undertake the uncongenial task of teaching 
the Medici children. He accompanied the family away 
from his beloved Florence, when after the conspiracy 
of the Pazzi Lorenzo thought it desirable to send them 
to Pistoia, and afterwards to Cafaggiolo, in the winter. 
From thence little Piero, the eldest, wrote the most 
delightful letters to his father in an unsteady childish 
hand, and chiefly in Latin, which his master left un- 

In 1478, when he was seven years old, he tells his 
father that he has already learned many verses of 
Virgil ; "and the master makes me decline and 
examines me every day." Then he adds with pardon- 
able pride : " Also I know the first book of Teodoro 
by heart, and I think I understand it." He must mean 
Teodoro Gaza's Greek Grammar. 

The child evidently makes good progress, for the 
following year he writes more easily : 


" I wish you would send me some of the best setters 
that there are. I do not desire anything else. All the 
company here, everybody, specially asks to be 
remembered to you, and I also. I pray you to be 
careful of the pestilence and to bear us in mind, 
because we are little and have need of you." 

In his next letter, on the strength of his Latin, he 
feels justified in begging for greater favours. 

"Nondum venit equulus, magnifice pater" (That 
little horse has not yet made his appearance). He 
gives an amusing account of his brothers and sisters : 
"Giuliano thinks of nothing but laughter; Lucrezia 
sews, sings and reads ; Maddelena knocks her head 
against the wall, but does not hurt herself ; Luisa can 
already say a few things ; Contessina makes a great 
noise all over the house." 

He does not receive the pony, and writes again : 
" To give a tone to my letters 1 have always written 
them in Latin, and yet I have not had the little horse 
you promised me, so that everybody laughs at me." 

Then again later : " 1 am afraid something must 
have happened to the horse, because if it had been all 
right you would have sent it to me as you promised. 
In case that one cannot come, please send me 

But at last the pony arrives, and little Piero writes a 
pretty letter of thanks, promising to be very good. 

One of Poliziano's letters about the children is worth 
quoting in part : " Piero attends to his studies with 
tolerable diligence. We daily make excursions 
through the neighbourhood, we visit the gardens with 
which this city abounds, and sometimes look into the 
library of Maestro Zambino, where I have found some 



good pieces both in Greek and Latin. Giovanni rides 
out on horseback, and the people follow him in 

" Raccomandomi a V.M. Pistoii, 31 Augusti, 1478." 

This Giovanni, who was only three years old, was 
the future Pope Leo X. These letters give the sunny 
outward aspect of life, but beneath, there was a 
rumbling of thunder, and two lives were very far from 
happy. Poor Mona Clarice, whose instinct was to 
spoil her children, and who cared for nothing but their 
religious education, was at constant feud with this very 
learned tutor, who was so strict about Latin, and 
altogether so terribly conscientious about the lessons. 
To make matters worse, she was clear-eyed enough to 
see that he despised her for her ignorance. Indeed in 
his letters to Lorenzo, he complains in no measured 
language of her interference, " being unlettered and a 

"As for Giovanni," he continues, "his mother 
employs him in reading the Psalter, which I by no 
means commend. Whilst she abstained from inter- 
fering with him, it is astonishing how rapidly he 
improved: insomuch that he read without assistance." 

Then again with regard to Piero when, according to 
the lime-table, he should have been reading his Greek, 
she called him away to sing hymns. 

This divided control had long been a standing 
grievance between the lady and the tutor, but it came 
to a climax in that long dull winter of 1478 which, by 
the desire of Lorenzo, they most unwillingly spent 
together at the villa of Cafaggiolo, in the cold 
Mugello. Imprisoned by incessant rain, longing for 
the various delights of far-distant Florence, and the 


delightful company of Lorenzo himself, they both 
became irritable and intolerant. At length Clarice, 
unable to endure the provocation which she received, 
compelled the tutor to leave the house, and wrote the 
following characteristic letter to her husband : 

" Magnifice Conjux ec. . . . I shall be glad to 
escape being made the subject of ridicule in a tale of 
Franco's as Luigi Pulci was ; nor do I like that Messer 
Agnolo should threaten that he would remain in the 
house in spite of me. You will remember I told you 
that, if it was your will he should stay, I was perfectly 
contented ; and although I have suffered infinite abuse 
from him, yet, if it be with your assent, I am patient. 
But I do not believe it to be so. . . . And the children 
are all well and have much desire to see you, and still 
greater have I, who have no other longing than this, 
having to remain here at this time. 

" Sempre a voi mi raccomando. In Cafaggiolo, 
28 Maii, 1479." 

Lorenzo seems to have quietly acquiesced in the 
change ; but he gave Poliziano the use of a villa at 
Fiesolc, and their friendship remained unbroken. The 
banished scholar, no longer worried by opposition or 
weary teaching, devoted his leisure to a much-admired 
poem, "Rusticus," in which he sings the praise of his 
beloved patron. 

Of Clarice's three daughters the eldest, Lucrezia, 
married Jacopo Salviati. We hear of her courage 
some years later when, cross-questioned by the magis- 
trates of the Republic as to the share she had taken in 
a conspiracy to restore Piero dei Medici, she boldly 
replied that he was her brother, and she wished for 
his success. 


Contessina married Piero Ridolfo, and Luisa was 
engaged to Giovanni dei Medici, but died before the 
appointed wedding-day. Maddelena seems to have been 
her mother's favourite, and when a marriage was sug- 
gested for her with Franceschetto Cybo, the son of 
Pope Innocent VIII., there are pathetic letters from 
Lorenzo, begging that she might be allowed to stay a 
little longer with her mother, who was in ill-health, 
and the girl was the very " eye of her head." 

This was in 1487, and in March of that year Piero, 
who was only sixteen, was married by proxy to Alfon- 
sina Orsini, who received a dowry of 1 2,000 Neapolitan 
ducats from the head of her noble house. Probably 
this was the last important event in the life of Clarice, 
for she died in the following July, not yet forty years 
of age. She had been dangerously ill, but the end 
must have come suddenly, for Lorenzo was away from 
home that week, taking sulphur baths for his gout. It 
is pleasant to think that the poor mother had her will, 
and that the dear Maddelena was with her to the end. 

Clarice was neither beautiful nor talented, but she 
was a kind, warm-hearted woman, always ready to 
befriend those in trouble, and to bring their petitions 
before her husband, sure of a favourable hearing 
Lorenzo mourned for her deeply, and after her death 
the shadows seemed to gather round his path, and he 
only survived her a few years. 





Birth of Giovaiina of Anjou. 


Petrarch crowned at Rome. 


Giovanna 1. succeeds her grandfather. King Robert, on 

the throne of Naples. Already married to Andreas, 

sort of the King of Hungary. 


Munltr of Andreas, the queen's husband. 


Giovanna I. marries Louis of Taranto. 


Great plague in Europe. Giovanna I. sells Avignon to 

Pope Clement VI. She visits Avignon, and pleads 

her own cause. 


Giovanna I. crowned Queen of Sicily. 


Death of her husband, Louis of Taranto, 


Giovanna marries Otho of Brunswick. 


Murder of Giovanna I., Queen of Naples, by her 

nephew, Charlesof Durazzo, after her defeat by the 

Kiog of Hungary. 


Birth of Giovanna II. of Naples. 


Charles of Durazzo succeeds to the throne of Naples. 


Charles, King of Naples, is murdered. 


His son Ladislaus firmly established on the throne of 



Marriage of Giovanna of Naples with Gugliemo, son of 

the Duke of Austria, Leopold III. 


Death of Gugliemo. 

1 41a. 

Sicily is united to the Kingdom of Aragoo. 


Ladislaus, King of Naples, takes possession of Rome. 

Flight of Pope John XXIII. 


Giovanna II. succeeds to the throne of Naples on the 

death of her brother, Ladislaus. 

14 16. 

Marriage of Queen Giovanna IL with Jaques de 

Bourbon, Comte de la Marche. 


Giovanna II. summons Alfonso of Aragon to her 


Giovanna II. adopts Louis III. of Anjou as her 



Death of Louis of Anjou. 


Death of Giovanna 11., ml February. 

. . . " By my troth 
I would not be a queen ! " 

Sdch is our instinctive cry as we read the story of this 
nnfortunate lady. Nowhere do we find in history so 
close a parallel to the hapless Mary Queen of Scots — 
in her beauty, her disposition, her many marriages, the 
sea of troubles which overwhelmed her, and her tragical 
end. Indeed the resemblance does not end here, for 
the same bitter controversy has raged ever since as to 
her character and deserts, the share she had in more 
than one murder, and the part she played in the drama 
of her life. 

In this slight sketch it will be possible to take a 
dispassionate view, inclining rather with the poet 
l&ccaccio to the side of mercy and kindly appreciation, 
for none can deny that, in any case, she was more 
sinned against than sinning. 

All the circumstances of her position were against 
the poor little princess from the beginning, and it was 
«er fate during life, to suffer from the sins and follies 
°' her nearest relations, while even her own good 
qualities were fatal to her ; for she was trusting where 
she ought to have been suspicious, and forgiving when 
sternness was her only chance. 

Giovanna was born at Naples in the month of 


February 1328. She was the granddaughter of Robert 
of Taranto, King of Naples, known to fame as " II 
buon Re Roberto," the patron of Boccaccio, the friend 
of Petrarch, himself a distinguished man of science 
and letters, a wise monarch, a munificent protector of 
artists and learned men — one of the most interesting 
personalities of his day. His father, King Charles II. 
of Naples, a prince of the house of Anjou, had married 
Maria, who was heiress to the throne of Hungary, and 
he succeeded to that kingdom in right of his wife. He 
must have felt that the union of these two great 
countries was unwieldy and unnatural, for on his 
death-bed, he called his sons to his side and divided 
his dominions, bequeathing to Charles Martel, the 
elder, the throne of Hungary, and leaving to his 
younger son Robert, the fair provinces of Naples and 
Provence. It was in the year 1309 that King Robert 
entered into possession of his patrimony, just at the 
earliest dawn of the Renaissance, for Dante and 
Giotto, Petrarch and Boccaccio, those great fore- 
runners, were all his contemporaries and friends. 

He had one son, Charles Duke of Calabria, who 
married Marie de Valois, sister of Philip of France, 
and he seems to have been a most accomplished 
prince, a great favourite with the people of Naples, 
who gave him the title of " The Illustrious." During 
two years he held the post of "Captain of the People" 
at Florence. But he did not long enjoy the honours 
of his position, for he died young, leaving two infant 
daughters, Giovanna, the subject of this notice, and a 
younger sister, Maria. 

King Robert, heartbroken at the loss of his only and 
dearly loved son, raised a splendid monument to his 


memory in the vast church of Santa Chiara. This 
beautiful Gothic design was the work of Masuccio II., 
and has been engraved by Cicognara, as a fine example 
of the sculpture of the fourteenth century. On a bas- 
relief — in front of the tomb on which the young prince 
rests, in his royal robes covered with fleurs-de-lis — he is 
represented sitting in the midst of the great officers 
and barons of the kingdom, his feet resting on a wolf, 
and a lamb drinking at the same fountain, to typify the 
peace which his reign would have brought. 

The bereaved father turned from these ruined hopes 
to devote himself to the tender care of his orphaned 
grandchildren, who were still almost babes when they 
lost their mother. In 1331, when Giovanna was not 
quite four years old, he proclaimed her heiress to his 
throne, and all his nobles were assembled with great 
ceremony, to take the oaths of allegiance to her as 
Duchess of Calabria. With the title she also inherited 
all the rights of her father in Naples and Provence. 

Poor little motherless duchess, weighted at that 
early age with functions of state and grandeur, when 
she should have been playing with her dolls 1 Still 
her grandfather may have been justified in this as an 
act of policy, for in those stormy times sovereignty was 
nought without pomp and show, and it was needful to 
secure the loyalty of powerful vassals to the heir of the 
throne. But the next step taken by " Robert the Wise" 
was fated to prepare the way for much misfortune and 

Some one was required to take charge of the royal 
children, and he unfortunately made choice of Philippa 
the Catenese, a name of dark and tragic repute in the 
i of Italy. She was born at Catania in Sicily, 


the daughter of a poor fisherman, and had entered the 
service of Violante, the first wife of King Robert, to 
nurse her infant son Charles. The Queen became so 
fond of her that she remained at the palace, and 
gradually rose to a position of great trust and influence, 
as first maid-of-honour. 

Philippa seems to have been a clever, handsome 
girl, and must have had most attractive qualities, for 
after the death of her first mistress, she was in still 
higher favour with the second wife of Robert, Queen 
Sancha, a lady of high reputation and capacity. The 
Duke of Calabria, her foster-child, was devoted to her. 
She married the seneschal of his palace, and became 
lady of the bedchamber to his wife, and was the first 
to welcome the baby Giovanna into the world. It was 
only natural that the favour and affection of the royal 
family for this woman of the people should give rise 
to much jealousy and even scandal. Indeed it ap- 
peared so incomprehensible in those days that she was 
accused of being a witch, Orloff speaks of her as 
" femme intrigante et sans roceurs," but he does not 
give any sufficient ground for that statement. 

Still it was no doubt unwise and impolitic to advance 
a woman of peasant birth, to a post which must have 
been eagerly desired by many high-born ladies of the 
court, and the influence which she gained over the 
child-duchess caused much ill feeling and evil gossip, 
and in the end led to her own ruin and destruction. 

King Robert the Wise made a yet more fatal mistake, 
with the most kindly and generous intentions. His 
fertile realms of Naples and Provence were so much 
more desirable than the arid wastes of Hungary that 
the princes of the elder branch had never been satisfied 


with this division, although it had been ratified by a 
formal decree of the Pope. So it occurred to the 
chivalrous gentleman that, if he could make a match 
between his little heiress and her second cousin, a son 
of the King of Hungary, it would put an end to all 
jealous feuds and be a perfect settlement of the family 
dispute. Negotiations were entered into with impul- 
sive haste, and King Carobert was only too willing to 
accept such a splendid offer, of a bride with a future 
kingdom as her dowry, for his second son Andreas. 

The boy was only seven years old and Giovanna was 
five, when this ill-fated marriage took place at Naples 
with the utmost magnificence. Princely feasts were 
given to the people, and the rejoicings continued for 
several days. In distinguished families of that epoch 
such solemn betrothals, or " marriages for the future," 
were by no means unusual for political considerations. 
At that early age, the children of course had no voice 
in the matter, and the parents had it all their own 

Bat in this case, the grievous error was made of 
bringing up the children together under the same 
roof, with the knowledge that they were destined for 
each other. Can we conceive any plan more iikely to 
be fatal to their ultimate happiness ? Affection is not 
usually secured to order, and the very fact that it was 
expected of them would probably end in mutual dis- 
like. As it happened, the two children were absolutely 
different in character and tastes. 

Full of enthusiasm himself for learning, King Robert 
devoted great care to the education of his grandchild, 
who had the best teachers in Italy. All historians agree 
as to Giovanna' s brilliant talent and passion for litera- 

ture ; and an old chronicle says that before she was 
twelve years old " she was already excelling in under- 
standing, not only every child of her age, but most 
women of mature years." She must have grown up 
amid the paintings of Giotto, in Santa Chiara and in 
the Castel Nuovo, which contained the finest library of 
the age, and she must have been on intimate terms 
with Petrarch and Boccaccio when they were at the 
Court of Naples. 

There is a story told of Giotto that when he was at 
work one summer day, King Robert, who enjoyed his 
genial company, said to him : 

" If I were you 1 would leave off painting when the 
weather is so hot." 

"So would I if I were King Robert," was the artist's 
ready reply. 

Meantime all this cultured society seems to have 
been wasted on Andreas. He grew up in the midst of 
his boorish Hungarian attendants, lazy and ignorant, 
full of dislike for the Neapolitans he was some day to 
govern. The King of Hungary, his father, had chosen 
for his tutor a monk, Fra Roberto, who had a most 
evil influence over his pupil, and kept him in absolute 
subjection. Too late the good King became aware of 
the unfortunate choice which he had made ; he fore- 
saw the trouble in store for his darling Giovanna, and 
he sought to obviate it, by excluding her husband from 
any share in the government. But this only prepared 
the way for new dangers, by awaking the rage and 
jealousy of the Hungarians. 

Giovanna's happy childhood soon drew to an end, 
for at the age of fifteen, she and Andreas began their 
married life. They were known as the Duke and 


Duchess of Calabria, and lived with King Robert and 
Queen Sancha in the Castel Nuovo, at once a citadel 
and a magnificent palace, overlooking the lovely Bay 
of Naples. It must have been a curious household 
under that princely roof : with the younger sister of 
Giovanna, the Princess Maria, future Empress of Con- 
stantinople, and another Maria, the reputed daughter 
of Count Aquino, whose wife had been attached to the 
Court of King Robert — who was, in fact, supposed to 
be the girl's real father. She was the frail and beautiful 
lady immortalised by Boccaccio as his " Fiammetta," 
and the portrait he has left of her, brings her image 
vividly before us. We are told that he first saw Maria, 
as he stood leaning against one of the columns of the 
Church of San Lorenzo. 

" Her tresses of a blonde hue, for which it is scarcely 
possible to find any comparison, shadowed a snow- 
white forehead, admirable for its well-proportioned 
width, in the lower portion of which two jet black and 
infinitely slender brows rise in circling arches, divided 
from each other by a candid space ; and beneath them 
two lovely eyes, such rogues in their movement that 
the light flashing from their beauty renders it scarcely 
possible to be sure what they really are. The slender 
nose is exactly proportioned to what the perfect beauty 
of the face requires ; the cheeks have no other colour 
than that of milk which the living blood has just newly 
tinged, and the vermilion mouth is in appearance that 
of roses among the whitest lilies; the chin, not pro- 
truding but rounded and dimpled in the centre, is 
poised above the milk-white and straight throat and 
soft neck " (" Ameta," p. 50). 

Boccaccio is said to have written his " Decamerone " 


to please this fair Maria, who was afterwards the wife 
of Robert Count d'Artois. 

On the death of her grandfather, the good King 
Robert, Giovanna became, in 1343, Queen of Naples, 
Provence, and Piedmont, a goodly heritage. The 
regency having been refused by the gentle and pious 
Queen Sancha, a council was appointed to govern 
during the minority. But Fra Roberto, by his influ- 
ence over Andreas, set at nought the late king's wishes, 
and became the ruler and tyrant of Naples. Petrarch, 
sent on a special mission by Pope Clement, gives a 
! deplorable account of Naples at this time, in a letter to 
Cardinal Colonna. He speaks of the Court as corrupt, 
1 vicious and barbarous, and thus alludes to the ferocious 
and ignorant ruler, Fra Roberto. 

" May heaven rid the soil of Italy of such a pest 1 — a 
horrible animal, with bald head and bare feet, short in 
stature, swollen in person, with worn-out rags, pur- 
posely torn to show his naked skin. He not only sets 
at nought the pitiful supplications of the citizens, but 
on the ground of his feigned sanctity, treats with scorn 
the embassy of the Pope." 

Giovanna would have kept the poet at her Court, but 
she was a sovereign only in name, and could but give 
him the nominal title of her chaplain and almoner. It 
is important to mention that Petrarch seems to have 
had a great admiration for her character and talent. 
He was full of pity for her position, and describes her 
as " a lamb in the midst of wolves." 

Meantime, troubles were thickening around her. 
The next year her young sister Maria, who had been 
promised in marriage to Louis King of Hungary, was 
persuaded to make a clandestine marriage with another 


cousin, the Duke of Durazzo; a cause of endless mis- 
fortune in the future. 

Great preparations were made for the coronation of 
Giovanna, which was to take place on September 20, 
1345, and to escape the tropical heat of that August, 
she and her husband went for change of air to the 
Celestine monastery at Aversa, about fifteen miles from 
the capital. They spent some weeks of apparent peace 
and happiness, in the exquisiteigardens of that enchant- 
ing spot, when the terrible event occurred, which has 
ever remained one of the unsolved riddles of history. 

It was on the night of September 18, that Andreas 
was roused by the news that an urgent courier had 
arrived from Naples. He had scarcely crossed the 
threshold of his chamber, when he was suddenly 
attacked by armed men, strangled, and hurled down 
from a balcony overlooking the garden. 

The enemies of the young queen at once accused her 
of complicity in the murder, yet no proof of her guilt 
was ever brought forward. It is said that she listened 
to theawfultalein speechless horror, withoutatear ; but 
with regard to this she says in her letter to the King of 
Hungary: "I have suffered so much anguish for the 
death of my beloved husband, that, stunned by grief, I 
had well-nigh died of the same wounds." 

It seems impossible to believe that a young girl of 
seventeen, of gentle, mild disposition, should be the 
cold-blooded assassin of her young husband, the father 
of her unborn child. We have seen the testimony of 
Petrarch to her fine character, and Boccaccio says of 
her : " She was so gracious, gentle, compassionate and 
kind, that she seemed rather the companion than the 
queen of those around her." 


When the news of this crime reached Naples there 
was consternation and tumult in the city, and the 
Hungarians Bed in haste. Giovanna returned at 
once to the Castel Nuovo, where two months afterwards 
her son was born. Her first step on resuming the 
government was to give a signed commission to a 
certain Hugh del Balzo, that he might seek out the 
murderers of her husband and bring them to judg- 
ment. He appears to have lost no time in seizing and 
putting to the torture some of the chamberlains of 
Andreas, who, on the rack, were induced to accuse, 
amongst others, Philippa the Catanese, who held a 
position of the highest honour with her mistress, her 
son Count Evoli, and her young granddaughter 
Sancha, recently married to Count Terlizi. 

Giovanna heard nothing of all this, and when Hugh 
del Balzo asked for an audience, she received him at 
once within the Castel Nuovo. Availing himself of the 
authority which the Queen had given him, he sum- 
moned all her dearest friends before him and accused 
them of Andreas' murder. In spite of her anguish 
and despair, she was helpless to protect them ; they 
were torn from her presence and put to death with 
atrocious cruelty. 

The loss of all whom she loved and trusted at one 
fell swoop, was a crushing blow from which the young 
girl never recovered, and from that time her sunny 
nature was saddened and overcast, and she was never 
known to have an intimate friend. 

Two years later, Giovanna gave much satisfaction to 

her people by marrying her second cousin, Prince 

Louis of Taranto, a man of distinguished courage and 

talent, and so strikingly handsome that he was spoken 



of as another Phoebus. At this time Louis, King of 
Hungary, who coveted the crown of Naples for him- 
self, invaded her kingdom on the pretext of avenging 
his brother's murder. He also laid a solemn accusa- 
tion against Giovanna before the Roman tribunal of 
Cola Rienzi, who heard the pleading on both sides, 
but seems to have been unable or unwilling to pro- 
nounce judgment. 

Meantime the Hungarian king adopted a horrible 
device to enlist the sympathy of the multitude. In 
front of his invading army a black standard was borne, 
on which was pictured the murder of Andreas, while a 
train of black-robed mourners followed it in grim 
procession. Thus escorted, Louis crossed the frontier 
and arrived at Aversa. Amongst his followers was the 
husband of Princess Maria, the Duke of Durazzo, who 
was false and foolish enough to think that if Giovanna 
were deposed, his wife and children would succeed to 
the throne. But a far other fate awaited him. The 
King requested him to point out the scene of the 
murder, and on his refusal, led the way to the Celes- 
tine convent, and on the fatal balcony accused him of 
complicity, and bid him prepare for death. In vain he 
protested his innocence and pleaded for mercy ; he was 
stabbed and cast into the garden below, where he was 
left un buried. 

After this deed of treachery, Louis advanced to 
Naples and took the city by surprise, but the young 
Queen was warned in time, and with her household, 
set sail in three galleys for the coast of Provence. Her 
tickle subjects, who had failed in courage to defend 
her, made bitter lamentation over her departure. She 
landed at Nice and made her way to Avignon, where 


she demanded of Pope Clement VI. that he and his 
cardinals should try the justice of her cause. She 
pleaded in her own person, and the Latin speech which 
she composed, was said by those who heard her to be 
" the most marvellous example of a woman's eloquence 
ever recorded in history." 

The Hungarian envoys sent to confront her, seem to 
have been reduced to silence, Giovanna had a great 
ovation ; she was acquitted with the highest honour 
and admiration, and the gallant knights of Provence 
crowded to offer their loyal service. At Avignon she 
was joined by her sister, the widow of the unfortunate 
Durazzo, whom she welcomed with tender affection 
and adopted the orphan children. 

In all the annals of history no year has a darker 
record than that of the Queen's visit to her dominions 
in Provence, 1348, noted for the coming of the Black 
Death. It had swept all over Europe, with terror and 
destruction in its train, and nowhere had its ravages 
been more fearful than in this city of the exiled Pope, 
who had actually consecrated the river Rhone for 
burial of the plague-stricken dead. Laura, the beloved 
of Petrarch, had fallen a victim to the pestilence soon 
after the arrival of Giovanna. 

After an orgy of horror and bloodshed, the King of 
Naples was driven away from Naples by the dread of 
infection, leaving behind a ferocious deputy, Conrad 
Wolf, whose tyranny and cruelty at length roused the 
Neapolitans to resistance. They rose against the 
Hungarians, and sent an abject petition to their queen, 
promising to deliver her from her enemies if she would 
consent to return. With a goodly retinue of Provencal 
nobility, she lost no time in travelling back to her 


capital, where she was welcomed with enthusiasm, and 
the Court over which she and her husband presided, 
soon regained its former magnificence. But while 
rewarding those who had remained faithful, they showed 
mercy in the hour of victory, and gave a free pardon to 
their disloyal subjects. 

Enraged at this reverse, the King of Hungary re- 
newed the war, which with varied success and many 
gallant fights lasted for more than two years, leaving 
everywhere devastation and misery in its track. Louis 
of Taranto, who had greatly distinguished himself as a 
general, at last made the chivalrous offer of ending the 
struggle by challenging the King of Hungary to single 
combat. The duel did not take place, but peace was 
at length concluded in 1353 by the mediation of the 
Pope, who also granted a Bull for the coronation of 
Giovanna and her husband. Never were there such 
rejoicings, and the whole city seemed to have gone 
wild with exultation. But even in that hour of 
triumph a new sorrow awaited the unfortunate queen, 
for on her return home after the coronation, she 
found her baby-girl, a four-year-old darling, dead in 
her cradle. 

She was destined to be a childless mother, for she 
had already lost her boy, the son of Andreas ; and 
another daughter, born later, also died in infancy. 

Still her life had no lack of outward prosperity, for 
in 1356 she was offered the throne of Sicily, and crowned 
with great state at Messina. 

But she was soon recalled from her new kingdom by 

fresh disturbances at home. Louis of Durazzo, the 

brother of her sister's murdered husband, was defeated, 

and on his death Giovanna kindly took his orphan son 


Charles under her care, little dreaming how her devotion 
would be repaid. 

Three years later she lost her idolised husband, who 
died of fever, brought on by his own intemperate 
habits. But she was not very long suffered to remain 
a widow, for her Ministers felt great anxiety to secure 
an heir to the kingdom. She was willing to abide by 
their choice, which fell on Giacomo, the son of the 
King of Majorca, and for the third time she went 
through the marriage ceremony. The bridal festivities 
were held by the lovely Bay of Gaeta, and the Prince 
of Majorca bore so high a character that once more 
there seemed to be a prospect of happiness for 
Giovanna. But within three months, her husband set 
off on an expedition to Spain to avenge the murder of 
his father by Pedro of Aragon. He was defeated and 
taken prisoner, notwithstanding the generous help of 
Edward the Black Prince. His wife paid an immense 
ransom for him, but, once free, nothing would deter 
him from repeating the same rash enterprise, in the 
course of which he fell a victim to malarious fever. 

Again was the poor queen urged to marry by her 
council, but she had suffered too much, and refused to 
tempt Providence again by the chances of matrimony. 
She set herself with great earnestness to the task of 
ruling her turbulent people, and the following years 
during which she reigned alone, were the most success- 
ful both at home and abroad. With a strong hand, she 
put down the desperate bands of brigands who infested 
the high roads, she kept a strict watch on the adminis- 
tration of justice, she gave wise encouragement to 
commerce, until peace and plenty reigned through- 
out the land. Her Court was the most brilliant in 


Italy, and she was a magnificent patron of learning 
and art. 

She built various churches, amongst others St. 
Antonio Abate, near the Albergo de' Poveri, with its 
famous picture of St. Anthony surrounded by angels 
and saints. But she is best remembered by the Gothic 
church of L'Incoronata, built to commemorate her 
coronation and her marriage with Prince Louis of 
Taranto. She built into it the ancient chapel of King 
Robert's Palazzo di Giustizia, in which her wedding 
had taken place, and the frescoes of the school of 
Giotto give a most curious and interesting representa- 
tion of incidents in the life of her family. 

She also founded and richly endowed the Carthusian 
Hospital near this church, and one of the paintings in 
the Chapel del Crocifisso represents the monks doing 
homage to her. On the beautiful shore of the Mergel- 
lina, where Posilippo stretches out into the blue sea, 
there are still pointed out the picturesque ruins of an 
unfinished palace, popularly called " della Regina 
Giovanna." Not far away is the famous tomb of 
Virgil, where as a child she must have seen the 
laurel planted by Petrarch, and may even have heard 
of his interesting visit to the Grotto with her grand- 

The poet tells us that in his time it was believed to 
have been formed with magic art by Virgil, and King 
Robert asked his opinion on the subject. Petrarch 
replied : " Trusting to the royal humanity, I answered 
in jest, that I had nowhere read that Virgil was a 
magician," To this the King, with a nod of assent, 
confessed that the place showed traces not of magic 
but of iron: "Non illic magici, sed ferri vestigia 


confessus est." A very appropriate remark for a man 
of science in his day. 

Queen Giovanna was not suffered to enjoy to the 
end her peaceful tastes for the intellectual and artistic 
revival of her day and her works of charity. New 
misfortunes awaited her. She had become greatly 
attached to the young Charles of Durazzo, whom she 
had adopted at the age of twelve, and, after lavishing 
endless care on his education, granting him every 
desire of his heart, and fulfilling every whim and fancy 
he could conceive, she had married him to her favourite 
niece Margaret. It is possible that life may have been 
made too smooth for him, as he seems to have been of 
a restless and ambitious temper ; still we cannot ex- 
plain his conduct, for Giovanna meant him to succeed 
her on the throne. Instead of remaining to help and 
protect his benefactress, he actually left her, to fight 
under the banners of her old enemy, King Louis of 
Hungary 1 

Thus forsaken, with fresh troubles arising on every 
side, the usual remedy was once more pressed upon 
the poor Queen, and at the age of forty-eight she was 
induced to take as her fourth husband Otho of Bruns- 
wick, Prince of a Guelph family, and about her own 
age. The choice seems to have been good, for we hear 
of him as a brave, handsome man, of cultivated taste 
and kindly disposition, who won the affection of his 
wife and never failed in his devotion to her. For 
some years they seem to have reigned in tranquil 
security, beloved by their people and at peace with the 
outer world. 

But the time came when all Christendom was torn 
asunder by the conflict between two rival popes : 


Urban VI. at Rome and Clement VII. at Avignon. 
Naples took the side of this last, and Pope Urban, 
while professing friendship with Queen Giovanna, 
secretly offered her throne to Charles of Durazzo, at 
the price of large territorial concessions. The ambitious 
young prince listened, hesitated, and was lost. He 
yielded to the shameful temptation, and his first step 
was to send for his wife and children, who had always 
lived in the palace of his benefactress and received 
from her the most devoted affection. Giovanna had 
received some hint of the conspiracy, but when 
Margaret asked leave to join her husband, she was 
treated with the utmost generosity and allowed to set 
forth on her journey with every honour and respect. 
It was their first parting and their last farewell, for they 
met never more. 

After this, Charles of Durazzo lost no time, and 
invaded Italy with a large force of mercenaries, to 
claim the kingdom of Naples, by right of the Pope's 
gift. When he reached the capital, he found that Otho 
of Brunswick had levied an army to protect it, and 
when fighting began outside the walls, the Queen and 
her household took refuge in the fortress of the Castel 
Nuovo and ordered the gates to be closed. But a 
throng of women and children, and helpless or infirm 
people crowded before the archway, and with pitiful 
cries besought protection from the brutal Hungarian 
soldiery. The tender-hearted Giovanna was deaf to 
the advice of her companions, and gave orders that 
the unfortunate creatures should be admitted. This 
generous deed was fatal, for the store of provisions 
which should have lasted many months came to an end 
in a few weeks. 


The Queen was in hourly expectation of help from 
Provence in the way of men and food, and she also 
trusted to the success of her husband, and held out to 
the last, although by treachery Durazzo had gained 
admittance to the city. She had two of her nieces 
with her, and we are told that the elder one, Agnese of 
Durazzo, a rich woman, had refused to lend money 
to help in defending the citadel. When the last 
extremity of famine was reached, she brought her gold 
and jewels and laid them at the feet of the Queen, who 
gently told her that it was now too late. 

" A sack of wheat were more precious to us now, my 
fair niece, than all this treasure ! " she sighed. 

A desperate battle was fought under the walls of the 
city, and the brave Otho was wounded and taken 
prisoner, while his troops were defeated and fled. 
There was no more hope, and Giovanna was compelled 
to surrender. Four days later the long-looked -for 
galleys from Provence, laden with provisions, sailed 
into the Bay of Naples — alas I too late. 

Charles of Durazzo now endeavoured, by persuasion 
and threats, to induce the unhappy lady to yield her 
kingdom to him. In full confidence that he would 
succeed, he permitted her friends from Provence and 
other loyal nobles to see her. With undaunted spirit 
she called upon them to witness that she made Louis 
of Anjou her heir, and that she solemnly revoked all 
she had ever said in favour of the traitor, who now 
held her prisoner. 

Furious at the failure of his plan, Charles treated 
her with insult and cruelty, and after eight months of 
close confinement sent her to the lonely castle of 
Mom, far away in a deep ravine of the Apennines. 


While she lived he would never feel safe, so he caused 
her to be put to death by some Hungarian soldiers. 
This was in May 1382, when she was fifty-four years of 
ag^ She was buried in Santa Chiara, amid the tombs 
of her own people — the most unfortunate of her race. 
She was well-beloved and long lamented by her 
subjects, and the legend of her pitiful story still lingers 
in the land. 

" A rare and noble lady/ 9 says the poet Boccaccio. 
u I not only esteem her illustrious and resplendent by 
conspicuous excellence, but the singular pride of Italy, 
and such as altogether no other nation has ever seen 

her equal." 



The historian of the Renaissance must not shrink 
from touching on the darker side of that great move- 
ment, which tended to place women on an equal 
height with men. In earlier medieval days they were 
more rarely entrusted with absolute power, and in 
later times they were at least expected to wear a mask 
of outward decorum. As we have seen, even in this 
age of licence, there were many great ladies of high 
and unblemished character, but assertion of such fact 
was necessary, and it was by no means taken for 
granted. On the other hand, when they yielded to the 
temptations which surrounded them, they were wont to 
cast away all moral restraint, and glory in their shame. 

In this second Giovanna of Naples we see a striking 
instance of a woman swayed only by her desires, 
whose weakness and vice were unredeemed by any 
noble qualities, and who brought two centuries of 
desolation upon her unfortunate country. 

Burdened by an evil heritage, she was the only 
daughter of the traitor, Charles of Durazzo, and her 
early life was spent at Naples under the loving care of 
Queen Giovanna I. One of the most striking memories 
of her childhood must have been that hurried journey, 
at the age of ten years, to join her father when he was 
on the point of invading the kingdom of his benefac- 


tress, and she cannot have been ignorant of his 
subsequent murder of that gracious lady. The girl 
seems to have had neither beauty nor accomplish- 
ments, save for the art of dancing, of which she was 
passionately fond. 

Her father did not long enjoy the throne which he 
had so shamefully usurped, and after his violent death 
in Hungary, Margaret, his wife, asserted herself as 
Regent for Ladislaus, the young brother of Giovanna. 
Many years followed, of ruthless war and perfidious 
intrigues, in the long struggle between Margaret of 
Durazzo and her son on one side, and the brave Marie 
de Blois on the other, fighting for the rights of the boy 
Louis of Anjou, grandson to the chosen successor of 
the late Queen. Not until the year 1399 was Ladislaus 
firmly established in the government, which he dis- 
graced by his crimes. 

Meantime the life of his sister Giovanna was spent 
in strange vicissitudes ; now in a beleaguered fortress, 
or in the passing shelter of a convent; in a camp of 
rough soldiers or amid the dissipation of a profligate 
Court, She was already thirty-two years of age 
before, as a political alliance, a husband was found for 
her— Guglielmo, the son of Leopold 111., Duke of 
Austria, Three years later she became a widow and 
returned to Naples, where, on the death of her brother 
Ladislaus, she succeeded to the crown, notwithstanding 
the shameful notoriety of her evil conduct. 

One of her favourites at that time was a man of low 
birth but imposing presence, Pandolpho Alopo, who, 
irom being her cup-bearer, she promoted to be Grand 
Seneschal, and whose influence over her was so great 
that he practically ruled in her name, hated and 


despised by all. But he was soon to meet with a rival. 
The famous Condottiere Sforza had entered the service 
of the late king, and was now commander-in-chief of 
the army. His real name was Jacopo Attendolo, a 
peasant of Cotignola, on the plain of Faenza, who 
enlisted in one of those companies of : adventurers 
always ready to fight for pay under any banner ; and 
rising to high command by his skill and bravery, he 
received the name of " Sforza," inherited by an illus- 
trious line of princes. 

The rivalry of these two favourites caused so many 
troubles and dissensions, that Giovanna was persuaded 
to seek protection in marriage with some foreign 
prince. Her choice fell on Jaques de Bourbon, Comte 
de la Marche, a distant relation of King Charles of 
France, who brought a train of French knights with 
him, and the marriage was celebrated with much 
splendour. Her husband can scarcely have been 
ignorant of the lady's reputation, but as he gradually 
learnt the whole truth with regard to her, his indigna- 
tion knew no bounds, and he sternly imprisoned her in 
her own apartments, taking upon himself the absolute 
government of the realm. 

The people of Naples were naturally indignant at 
this high-handed conduct on the part of a foreigner j 
and when he further committed Ihe natural imprudence 
of promoting his French followers to honour and 
office, a strong conspiracy was formed against him, at 
the head of which was a young man of great ability, 
Gianni Carraccioli. A plot was formed by which the 
Queen was carried off to the Castel Capuana, an ancient 
fortress of the Suabian rulers of Naples. The people 
were called upon to rise for her protection, and respond- 


ingwith enthusiasm, the King had barely time to escape 
with a few friends to the Castel del Ovo, which stands 
on a rock out in the Bay, and can only be reached by 
a narrow mole, well fortified by drawbridges. Here he 
shut himself up, but the place was not provisioned for 
a siege, and he was forced to surrender on humiliating 

He was to content himself with the title of Prince of 
Tarento, to leave all the sovereign power in the hands 
of the Queen, and to send away all his French suite 
and retainers. His position in the palace was now one 
of constant humiliation, exposed to the scarcely veiled 
insult of his wife's favourites, and he took no trouble 
to hide his anger and disgust. Meanwhile Giovanna, 
who had never forgiven him, only bided her time to 
get rid of his accusing presence. 

One night at supper, there was a dispute in which 
such strong language was used, that the Prince left the 
table in a storm of indignation and retired to his own 
chamber. Carraccioli, who was now highest in favour 
of all the Queen's parasites, had prepared for this ; by 
her order the doors were strongly barred, and guarded 
night and day, and her husband was kept a close 
prisoner for three years. He must have had ample 
leisure to repent of the ambition which led him to this 
fatal city, before he was at length released by the inter- 
cession of Pope Martin V. 

Broken in health and crushed by misfortune, he 
went back to his native land ; and resting on the way 
at Besancon, in a Franciscan convent, by a sudden 
impulse of religious enthusiasm he joined the Order. 
Weary of the world which had so betrayed his hopes, 
he dwelt there for the rest of hts life. 

97 c 


Meanwhile Carraccioli, absolute master of Queen 
Giovanna, under the title of Seneschal, practically 
ruled the kingdom. With infinite skill, he contrived to 
get rid of his rivals by giving them some important 
post away from the Court. The Condottiere Sforza 
was sent on an expedition to Rome, but all his best- 
laid plans failed for want of money and supplies, and 
as the Queen remained blind to the treachery of 
Carraccioli, Sforza formally renounced her cause and 
offered his services to Louis of Anjou. Victory would 
have been assured to them, but that a brilliant stroke 
of policy occurred to their enemies. 

Giovanna appealed to Alfonso, the young king of 
Aragon and Sicily, and as she could not offer to marry 
him at her age, she promised that he should be her 
adopted son, and heir to her kingdom, if he would 
help her to defend it. The gallant young prince 
was delighted to accept the splendid offer, and to 
become the champion of a lady in distress. He lost 
no time in sending a strong fleet, laden with his 
picked soldiers, and landed in triumph at Naples in 
July 142 1. 

After this, the affairs of the weak and fickle Giovanna, 
became one tangled mass of intrigues. Sforza isagain 
allured to fight under her banner, then Carraccioli 
becomes jealous of the influence of Alfonso, and 
poisons the mind of his mistress against the popular, 
and possibly vain-glorious young man. She is re- 
minded of the conduct of her own father in a like 
position, and in a wild panic of fear, she shuts herself 
up in the fortress of Castel Capuana and summons 
Slorza to her help. A fierce struggle and much fighting 
ensues, until at length Alfonso is defeated, his adoption 


is heir is revoked, and he is compelled to return to 

At this point there is a most unexpected turn in 
fortune's wheel. The young Louis of Anjou, whose 
father and grandfather have fought in vain for the 
prize during the last forty years, suddenly finds him- 
self chosen as the adopted son and heir of his 
hereditary foe I 

It was at the ancient city of Nola, in the plain of 
Campania, that Queen Giovanna signed this remark- 
able treaty, which led later on to the invasion of Italy 
by the French, and to a European war. But person- 
ally she had no reason to regret her choice, for Louis 
behaved to her with unchanging kindness and devotion 
lo the end of her life. Meantime Carraccioli had been 
laten prisoner by Alfonso, but he was shortly ex- 
changed for several Spanish prisoners, and returned to 
his old position of absolute authority. Again there 
Was fighting, this time against the Condottiere Braccio, 
who had taken Capua and had laid siege to the fortified 
C| ty of Aquila. It was in the middle of winter that 

'rza marched against him into the Abruzzi, but in 
fording the river Pescara, which was in flood after 
heavy rain, his horse was carried along by the rapid 
current and the great general was drowned. 

Astrologers had predicted that neither Braccio nor 
Sforza would long survive each other, and it is possible 
that this superstitious belief may have had some slight 
part in the defeat of Braccio shortly after, and his 
death. This victory of Aquila should have brought 
peace to the troubled kingdom, but for the perfidy ot 
Oravannas seneschal, who, becoming jealous of Louis, 
nude secret efforts to bring back Alfonso. He held 


many important offices which brought him in immense 
wealth, he had many titles and great possessions but, 
not satisfied with all this, Carraccioli had the audacity 
to demand the Principality of Salerno, which was 
reserved for princes of the blood. To his surprise his 
mistress refused, whereupon, beside himself with rage, 
he treated her with the utmost insolence and violence, 
even going so far as to strike her. The wretched 
Queen was found in tears by her new lady-in-waiting, 
Covella Rufo, Duchess of Sessa, who was a deadly 
enemy of the favourite, and she seized her oppor- 

A warrant was signed for the arrest of Carraccioli, 
and the Duchess accompanied it with secret orders 
that he was to be put to death. This was done, after a 
ball given in honour of his son's wedding, and the weak 
Giovanna was at first inconsolable when she heard of 
it, but Covella asserted her power, and for the next 
three years was the real head of the State. She was a 
crafty, unprincipled woman, and did all the mischief 
she could, with her exactions and intrigues. But the 
end was drawing near. Louis of Anjou died of fever 
in 1434 and the Queen, broken-hearted at his loss, only 
survived him a short time. 

Thus ended her miserable reign of twenty years, a 
time of ceaseless unrest, and bitter suffering to her un- 
fortunate people. For the sake of her love to Louis, 
she bequeathed the kingdom of Naples to his brother 
Rene, but he never enjoyed the possession of it. 
Alfonso of Aragon asserted his right to the crown, and 
seized it by force of arms. The softer climate of Italy 
and the higher civilisation, seem to have had a special 
charm for him, as he spent the rest of his life at Naples, 


leaving his brother Prince Juan to rule in Aragon, and 
ultimately bequeathing to him all his hereditary posses- 
sions in Spain, Sicily and Sardinia, while he left the 
kingdom of Naples to his illegitimate son Ferdinand. 
This prince was acknowledged by a special Bull of the 
Pope, and was the founder of an illustrious race. His 
daughter Leonora married Ercole, Marquis of Ferrara, 
and was the mother of the famous Isabella d'Este. 










Birth of Bianca Maria Sforza, at Milan. 


Birth of Isabella d'Este, at Ferrara, 


Birth of Beatrice d'Este. at Ferrara. 


Murder of Galeazzo Maria. Duke of Milan. 


Lodovico Sforza (il Moro) usurped the government of 

Milan in the name of his nephew, Gian Galeazzo. 


Pope Sixtus IV, made a league with Venice to despoil 

the House of Este. War carried on. The Pope 

withdrew, but Venice continued, until, by the 

Treaty of Bagnolo, she acquired much Este property. 


Death of Sixtus IV. 


Lodovico Sforza. for Milan, makes alliance with 

Florence and Naples against the Pope. 


Marriage of Isabella d'Este with Francesco, Marches* 

of Mantua. 


Marriage of Beatrice d'Este with Lodovico Sforza, 

Duke of Ban. 


Pope Alexander VI. (Koderigo Borgia). 


Lodovico Sforza, at war with Naples and Florence, 

invites the King of France, Charles VIII., to 

invade Italy. 


Marriage of Bianca Sforza with the Emperor Maxi- 



Charles VIII. crosses the Alps. Lodovico Sforza joins 

him at Pa via. Florence, Rome and Naples submit 

to the French. Death of Gian Galeazzo, young 

Duke of Naples. His uncle, Lodovico, is crowned 

Duke of Milan. 


Alarmed at the success of Charles VIII., Lodovico 

forms a league against him, with Venice, Naples, the 

Emperor Maximilian, &c. Francesco Marchese oi 

Mantua is Captain of the League. The French win 

the battle of Fornova. They are driven from Italy. 


Death of Beatrice d'Este, Duchess of Milan. 

i 49 8. 

Louis XII. of France, successor to Charles VIII., lays 

claim to Naples, Sicily and Milan. 


The French cross the Alps, conquer Milan. Lodovico 

returns and has a temporary success. 


Lodovico, a fugitive, takes reluge at the Court of his 

niece, the Empress Bianca, at Innsprtick. He 

makes a fresh attack on the French, is defeated and 

taken prisoner to France. 


Pope Julius II. Birth of Federico, son of Isabella 



Death of Lodovico Slorxa in the prison of Loches. 


Francesco, husband of Isabella d'Este, made prisoner by 

the Venetians and kept captive for thirteen months. 


Death of Bianca Maria Sforia, wife of Emperor Maxi- 



Maximilian Sforza. son of Beatrice d'Este, becomes 

Duke of Milan. 


Pope Leo X., first Medici Pope. 


The French again take Milan, and the young Duke 

Maximilian is expelled. 


Death of Francesco, Marchese of Mantua. Federico 

succeeds him. 

13a 1. 

The Pope and Emperor Charles V. combine against 

the French and drive them from Milan. Francesco 

Sforza, brother of Maximilian, proclaimed Duke 

of Milan. 


The French, after many defeats in Lombard y . are utterly 

routed at Pavia, where Francis I. is taken prisoner. 


Rome is sacked by the Imperialists, and Pope Cle- 

ment VII. prisoner in Castello St Angelo. Ten 

months of horror. 


Marriage of Duke Ercole of Ferrara with Henee of 



General peace in Italy. 


Emperor Charles V. crowned by the Pope at Bologna. 

Isabella d'Este amongst the guests at Bologna. 


Marriage of Francesco, Duke of Milan, to Christina of 

Denmark. Death of Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, and 

of Pope Clement VII. 


Death of Francesco, Duke of Milan (son of Beatrice 



Death of Isabella d'Este, Marchess of Mantua. 


Death of Rente, Duchess of Ferrara. 


As we look upon that wonderful frozen image of 
Beatrice d'Este, in the Certosia of Pavia, the splendid 
monument of Lodovico's love and sorrow, we seem to 
pierce somewhat of the mystery of her character. 

The ambitious woman who " could not live without 
a crown," for whose sake more blood was shed, more 
troubles let loose on her ill-fated land than ever of old 
for Helen of Troy, becomes for us a delicious, wilful 
girl who has scarce outpassed her childhood. We see 
the shapely young head rising from the long rounded 
throat, the smooth brow with vagrant curls nestling 
about it, the dainty little nose, the round chin and full 
soft cheeks, and the sweet mouth closed in the peace- 
ful slumber of an innocent child. 

The little feet in their embroidered pattens, once so 
fond of dancing, peep out from below the stiff brocades 
which shroud the graceful figure of the beloved Duchess, 
whose husband had his own effigy carved in marble to 
rest by her side. 

For the moment we forget that insatiable ambition 
which summoned the hosts of France, with misery and 
disaster in their train, and we only look with tender 
pity on the fair young creature, cut off in the heyday 
of her youth, who so craved for splendour and joy. 


On the noble parentage of Beatrice d'Este we dwell 
more fully in the story of her more fortunate elder 
sister, Isabella. Compared to the reigning family of 
Este — the Rovere, the Sforza, the Medici, and most of 
the other great families of Italy, were but of mushroom 
growth ; and this distinction of long descent stood the 
Dukes of Ferrara in good stead, and did much to 
preserve their throne in the troublous days, when most 
of their princely neighbours fell from their high 

Our little princess was born on June 29, 1475, 
into a world which had but a cold welcome for her as 
a girl, instead of the much-desired heir. She received 
the name of Beatrice after her aunt, the Queen of Hun- 
gary. Her father was Duke Ercole I., one of the most 
illustrious rulers of Ferrara, distinguished both in 
peace as a generous patron of art and letters, and in 
war as a successful general. Her mother was Leonora 
of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand, or, as he is often 
called, Ferrante, King of Naples, Beatrice was thus 
born to a heritage of culture on both sides ; and when 
she was only two years old, she was taken by the 
Duchess Leonora to the Court of her grandfather at 
Naples, where she remained for the next eight years. 
The old king appears to have become so much attached 
to the bright, intelligent little girl, that he persuaded her 
mother to leave her behind, when she had to return to 
Ferrara with her other children, for two sons had 
followed in quick succession — Alfonso, the heir, and 
Ferrante, born at Naples. 

Meantime war had broken out in Italy, and Duke 
Ercole having been appointed Captain-General of the 
armies of Florence, his wife was recalled home to rule 


his state and city during his absence, thus showing his 
confidence in her judgment and ability. 

It must have been a curious life for the little girl as 
a spoiled darling of that luxurious Court, all the gayer 
for the coming of the young Queen Joan of Aragon, 
Ferrante's second wife. Naples was then in its golden 
age of literary and artistic glory. There were Tuscan 
artists, poets, and scholars who found there a congenial 
home ; the whole coast of that exquisite blue sea, from 
Santa Lucia to Baize, with its orange groves and aloes 
and palms — was one scene of enchantment, of luxury, 
of indolent enjoyment, and of vice sheltering under a 
mask of refinement. Amongst the distinguished guests 
who came to the Castel Nuovo, was Lorenzo dei Medici, 
who travelled hither in December 1479, as a bold 
stroke of diplomacy, to secure the support of the King. 
He had a friend at Court in the person of the Duchess 
of Calabria, Ippolyta Sforza, the aunt of little Beatrice. 
She may have seen the two allies, as Ferrante called 
them, pacing up and down the royal terraces between 
the Vomera and the sea, on the slopes above the 
Chiaia, that loveliest garden in all Europe. The despot 
of Florence must have enjoyed his visit in the con- 
genial society he met ; and we hear of him as giving 
magnificent banquets in the palace assigned to his use, 
releasing galley slaves and dowering poor girls. It was 
not for nothing that he was called the " Magnificent 1 " 
But he had a long, weary time of waiting, while the King 
went out hunting in the sandy scrub beyond the escarp- 
ments of old Cums, and kept him in suspense, till at 
length, at the end of February, peace was concluded, 
and Lorenzo could return home contented. 
The little girl, Beatrice d'Este, was happy at least in 


having as companions her cousins, the children of the 
Duchess Ippolyta ; the merry Ferrante, heir to the 
throne of Naples, and his sister Isabella, who was five 
years older than herself, and who was destined one day 
to be her rival. This young girl was already betrothed 
to the young Duke Gian Galeazzo of Milan, but her 
marriage did not take place until she was almost 
eighteen, two years before that of Beatrice, who was 
still a young child when she first sawher future husband, 
Lodovico Sforza, the uncle of Gian Galeazzo. He was 
then Duke of Bari, and being very anxious to secure 
the friendship of the Duke of Ferrara, he made a 
formal offer for the hand of Isabella d'Este, who was 
then a child of six. But she was already promised to 
the son of Federico, Marchese of Mantua, and the 
Duke suggests that "he has another daughter at 
Naples, who is only a year younger, and who has been 
adopted by the King of Naples as his own child. He 
will write to his Serene Majesty and ask if he will 
consent to receive the Signor Lodovico as his kinsman." 

Lodovico being quite willing to accept the younger 
daughter Beatrice, the consent of the King of Naples 
is obtained, and the child of five years old is betrothed 
to the handsome and wealthy Duke of Bari, at that 
time aged twenty-nine. But the little girl remained at 
Naples with her grandfather for the next five years, and 
when she returned to her home at Ferrara it was 
actually with the title of Duchess of Bari, she having 
reached the age of ten. 

With these two young daughters, destined to become 
great princesses, and to rule Courts of their own, the 
Duchess must have had a strong stimulus and a definite 
end in view, with regard to their education, Now, in 


the year of Beatrice's return, in 1485, there was once more 
a time of peace and prosperity at Ferrara, after the disas- 
trous war and perilous struggles, when for a time the fate 
of the dukedom hung in suspense. Art and science, 
and learning of every kind were cultivated with so much 
generosity and success, that the University of Ferrara 
had become the most distinguished in Italy. There was, 
therefore, no difficulty in obtaining the first scholars of 
the day, as tutors to the Duke's children. 

Rattista Guarino of Verona was selected to give a 
classical foundation to their studies, and with him the 
little girls learnt to read Cicero and Virgil, and studied 
the history of Greece and Rome. Tliey were also 
taught French to some extent, and could enjoy Pro- 
vencal poetry, but they had the usual difficulty in 
learning to speak a foreign language fluently, for we 
find them using interpreters in later years, when a King 
of France had to be received. Great care was bestowed 
upon the social arts of music and dancing, in which 
both the sisters distinguished themselves. As for the 
poetry and literature of their own land, it came to them 
naturally as a charming recreation, while they sat at 
their tapestry in the fairylike gardens of the summer 
palace, and listened to the most gifted poets of the 
Renaissance, reciting their latest works. From the 
example and teaching of their mother, they could not 
fail to receive a deep religious impression, for she was 
a pious woman devoted to all good works. As one of 
her chroniclers remarks ; " The illustrious Madonna is 
high above all other women, and her excellent virtues 
will open for her without fail the adamant doors of 
Yet we must not think that Isabella and Beatrice 

were always at their studies, for the complete training of 
a great lady included riding and out-of-door sports. 
Their father kept a hundred horses of the finest breed 
obtainable ; Barbary horses from the Sultan of Tunis, 
Spanish jennets and trained palfreys, the very pick of 
Europe ; and their mother had her own splendid grey- 
hounds, which the greatest princesses in Italy would 
beg for, as a supreme favour. Beatrice was a splendid 
rider, and always devoted to hunting ; indeed, with her 
gay bright disposition, no amusement came amiss to 
her. She inherited her father's passionate love for 
theatrical entertainments of every kind, and also his 
keen delight in travel, which he liked to indulge in a 
sumptuous way, as when, in 1484, he went to Venice 
with his wife, and a suite of seven hundred persons, ti 
stay there in his own magnificent palace on the Gr; 

Thus the Este sisters passed a few happy years, 
rounded by all the most beautiful works of art, 
everything which could contribute to their culture 
enjoyment. But all this was drawing to an end, for the 
young Marquis of Mantua showed himself an eager 
lover, and would wait no longer for his bride Isabella. 
In February 1400 the marriage was duly celebrated 
with great pomp at Ferrara, and the bride departed for 
her new home at Mantua, leaving Beatrice to await her 
own wedding, which was somewhat unaccountal 

It is very difficult to form a clear idea of the charact* 
of Lodovico Sforza, 11 Moro, as he was usually called, 
He must have been a very striking personality, a wonder- 
ful combination of good and evil qualities, and no two 
historians really agree about him. One will say : " Hi 

s, to 





lad a sublime soul and universal capacity. Whatever 
le did, he surpassed expectation, in the fine arts, in 
learning, in justice and benevolence. And he had no 
equal among Italian princes for wisdom and sagacity 
in public affairs." 

Other chroniclers speak of " II Moro " as an utterly 
unscrupulous man, a traitor, a murderer, of evil life, 
and one whose word could never be depended upon 
by friend or foe. Burckhardt speaks of him as a typical 
figure of the Italian Renaissance, both in his faults and 
in his virtues. 

He was the fourth son of Francesco Sforza, one of 
the earliest of those famous Condottieri, captains who 
commanded bands of mercenaries, and were willing to 
fight for any state who paid them. This Francesco had 
married Bianca, daughter of Filippo Maria Visconti, 
on whose death he made himself Duke of Milan, and 
reigned there for twenty years. The boy Lodovico was 
the first son born after his father's elevation, and was 
brought up with all the advantages of wealth and the 
wisest culture. His mother, a most capable woman, 
devoted herself very much to the education of her six 
sons. " 1 would have you remember that we have 
princes to educate, not only scholars," she remarked to 
one of the learned tutors, who may have grudged the 
time given to knightly exercises. 

It is interesting to notice that her daughter Ippolyta, 

afterwards the Duchess of Calabria mentioned at the 
Court of Naples — shared the studies of her brothers, 
and on the occasion of a visit from Pope Pius II., it 
was she who spoke the Latin oration in his honour. 

Lodovico was always a great favourite with his 
father, whose sudden death in 1466 was a great blow 

to him. His eldest brother, Galeazzo, succeeded to the 
duchy, and his reign of ten years was one of the utmost 
magnificence and reckless extravagance. He was cruel 
and profligate, and his mother, the Duchess Bianca, is 
said to have died of grief, two years after his accession. 
" More from sorrow of heart than sickness of body " 
was the verdict of her physician. Galeazzo married 
Bona of Savoy, the sister of Louis XL's wife, and 
Lodovico was sent to meet her at Genoa, so that he 
must have been on good terms with his brother. The 
murder of Duke Galeazzo in 1476 brought only a 
change for the worse in the position of his brothers, 
who were exiled before very long, on strong suspicion 
of treachery to the young heir, Gian Galeazzo, and the 
regent, Bona, his mother. She seems to have been 
" une dame de petit sens," as the historian Commines 
says, for she encouraged a low-born favourite, and soon 
became tired of listening to the good advice of her 
most faithful and able minister, Simonetta. She pri- 
vately sent for Lodovico, a fatal step, which she had 
cause bitterly to rue in the days to come. 

Lodovico il Moro returned to Milan, where he was 
formally appointed to the regency with his sister-in-law, 
and from that time he practically governed the duchy, 
while before long, the ill-fated Simonetta paid for his 
fidelity with his life. Lodovico made peace with 
Florence and paid court to the King of Naples, who at 
this time accepted an alliance with the Regent of Milan, 
by permitting the betrothal with his young grand- 
daughter, Beatrice d'Este. Meantime the Duchess 
Bona showed her " little sense" by leaving everything 
to her coadjutor, giving up her own time to banquets 
and dances, in the company of her favourite, who at 


length so presumed on his position, that he was ordered 
by the Council to leave Milan. With cowardly haste, 
Tassino made his escape, taking all the money and 
jewels on which he could lay hand, and the duchess, in 
her blind rage, gave up everything and fled from the 
city. She ultimately returned to the French king's 
court, and her brother-in-law was left sole ruler in 

"Merito e tempore " was the motto he chose, and so 
fir he had indeed proved the truth that, all things come 
to him who waits. But the end was not yet. At the 
time of his mother's flight, the young Duke Gian 
Galeazzo was not quite twelve years old. He had 
always been a weakly child, and as he became older it 
was evident that his mind was feeble too. He cared for 
nothing but boisterous pleasures, and could not apply 
his attention to anything. Thus, as time passed on, 
Lodovico's position became more assured than ever, 
and in everything except the title and outward show,he 
was the absolute ruler of Milan. During his father's 
lifetime, Gian had been betrothed to the Princess 
Isabella of Aragon, and when he had reached the age 
°f twenty the marriage was celebrated ; the bride 
having been first brought from Naples to Milan with 
the utmost magnificence, although it was a very rough 
passage (o Genoa in the depth of winter. This was in 
February 1489, but the situation did not change with 
•he young duke's marriage, although his young wife 
quickly grasped the state of things, and tried to urge 
him to assert himself, but in vain, for he always 
foolishly repeated what she advised. 

AH this time, Lodovico seems to have troubled him- 
self very little about his own engagement to the child 
113 " 


Beatrice, although he had frequent reminders 
subject from Ferrara. As far back as 1485, her 
had been sent to him, for we find this entr; 
archives of Ferrara : " On December 24, Cosin 
received four gold florins from the duke, in tha 
painted from life the face and bust of the Illus 
Madonna Beatrice, that it may be sent to Messt 
vico Maria Sforza, Duca di Bari, consort of ' 
Beatrice . . . Carlo Contingo bearing it with r 

The Regent of Milan had for years been de 
his mistress, a certain Cecilia Gallerani, a very t 
woman, noted for her learning and accomplis 
She had rooms in the Castello of Milan, a pal 
side the city, a villa at Cremona, and was treai 
honour and respect by the literary and artistic 
of which she was the centre. Poets wrote so 
her praise as to another Sappho, and Leonardo 1 
painted her portrait. Lodovico would have 
the lady had he dared to risk the consequent je; 
and also to give mortal offence to the Duke of 
and the King of Naples ; but prudence won 
and he made final arrangements for the Iong-< 
wedding with Beatrice d'Este. 

His first step was to send a magnificent neckl: 
a pendant of pearls, emeralds, and rubies, to th 
girl, and Cristoforo Romano, the great sculp 
instructed to carve her bust, which may be seei 
in the Louvre. The wishes of the Duke and i 
of Ferrara were carefully consulted, and it wa 
that their son Alfonso should join the weddin 
and fetch his own bride, Anna Sforza, from 
the same time. We have a very full accounl 
winter journey from Ferrara to Milan, The 

bride wore a splendid white dress sprinkled with pearls, 
and shining with jewels, and had her own people round 
her ; her mother and sister, and brother Alfonso, and 
her uncle the Cardinal Sisismondo. But the great 
event was to be the triumphal entry into Milan, for 
which the most sumptuous and extravagant prepara- 
tions were made. It reads like a fairy tale, the descrip- 
tion of that marvellous pageant on the following Sunday, 
when the bride and her party were met at the gates of 
the city by Gian Galeazzo, nominally the reigning Duke, 
and Lodovico, clothed in gold brocade, a magnificent 
figure amongst his gallant company, preceded by a 
hundred trumpeters. The streets were hung with costly 
brocades, and wreathed with ivy, and the armourers' 
quarter was lined with effigies of warriors in chain 
armour on horseback, while the heralds made martial 
music as the bride was lifted from her horse at the great 
gateway of the Caste! lo, and received by Bona of Savoy, 
who had returned to her home for the occasion. By 
her side was her daughter Anna Sforza, who was married 
the next day to Alfonso d'Este, to the mother's great 
satisfaction. As for the wedding presents, the festi- 
vities, the tournaments, the masques which followed, 
they were on a scale of unexampled magnificence, and 
in this brief space it would be impossible to do them 
justice. But one masquerade of Scythians has a special 
interest for us, as having been designed by Leonardo 
da Vinci, who for sixteen years was the court painter 
of Milan. 

The wedding guests, on their departure, having ex 

pressed a wish to see the famous Certosa of Pavia, tr"~~ 
lordly Lodovico wrote to the prior requesting him to«= 
" give them a fitting reception and provide an honour 


able banquet for the Duchess of Ferrara and her com- 
pany, which would number about four hundred persons 
and horses ; providing them with a plentiful supply of 

After her quiet home life, where she had always been 
rather overshadowed by her sister, the young Beatrice 
now blossomed out into a great princess, whose slightest 
wish was gratified almost before she could express it. 
Nothing was too costly or too beautiful for her service, 
she lived in an atmosphere of flattery and adulation, 
where no one had any more serious duty than to please 
and amuse her, and life seemed to be one long gay holi- 
day. Full of high spirits and the keenest enjoyment of 
all the new delights which awaited her, she laughed and 
jested, she danced and sang ; she was never tired of 
playing ball with her gay companions, of riding races 
with them, and she had a perfect passion for hunting. 
Her husband looked on with amused interest and plea- 
sure at this bright, merry child, and when he was too 
much engaged to accompany her, she was constantly 
attended by one of the Sanseverino brothers, the most 
distinguished of his courtiers. Of these, Messer Gale- 
azzo, who had married a daughter of Lodovico, was the 
favourite at court, both for his knightly skill, his wit, 
and talents. He was a friend of Isabella d'Este, and he 
writes her the following account of some of her sister's 
amusements : 

February 1491. 
" I started at ten o'clock this morning with the 
duchess and all of her ladies on horseback to go to 
Cussago . . . and we sang more than twenty-five 
songs together set for three voices. . . We had a 
fine fishing expedition, and caught a great quantity of 

pike, trout, lampreys, crabs . . . and then we 
dined off them till we could eat no more. Then, to 
make our meal digest the better, we played ball with 
great vigour and energy. . . And then we mounted 
our horses again, and began to let fly some of those 
good falcons of mine along the river-side, and they 
killed several birds. By this time it was already four 
o'clock. We rode out to hunt stags and fawns, and 
after giving chase to twenty-two and killing two stags 
and two fawns, we returned home and reached Milan 
an hour after dark, and presented the result of our 
day's sport to my lord the Duke of Bari." 

Indeed, Lodovico seems to have been so much 
pleased, that he presented his young wife with the 
lands and palaces of Cussago, where now only a few 
fragments are left to recall the beauties of that favourite 
villa at Visconti. But in the midst of all this gaiety and 
boundless enjoyment, a dark rumour reached the ear of 
Beatrice ; she first heard the story of Cecilia Gallerani, 
and of her husband's continued relations with her. 
It must have been a great shock to the few months' 
bride, to find that while she was treated as a pampered 
plaything, Lodovico's confidence and affection were 
bestowed upon another woman. She behaved with 
spirit and dignity, bidding her lord take his choice 
between them, as she would have no divided sway. 
Meantime, news of this discovery, as of all that befell 
Beatrice, had been sent to the court of Ferrara, and 
Lodovico, after an interview with the ambassador of 
Duke Ercole, became convinced that this scandal must 
cease. In the following May, Cecilia gave birth to a 
son, and in July, loaded with splendid presents, she was 
married to Count Bergami. 


We next hear of the Duke and Duchess at Vigevano, 
the old Lombard town where he was born, and where 
he spent a fortune on works of irrigation which, as the 
inscription on the great tower still tells us : " turned 
the course of rivers and brought flowing streams of 
water into the dry and barren land. The desert waste 
became a green and fertile meadow, the wilderness 
rejoiced and blossomed as the rose." 

He had taken much delight in rebuilding the castle, 
and had laid out beautiful gardens around, and a park 
which was well stocked with game ; but his special 
pride was a model farm, which forestalled many modern 
improvements. A French chronicler enumerates with 
wonder and admiration all that he saw there, of the 
finest sheep, goats, oxen, and herds of cows tended 
with skilled attention by labourers specially trained. 
Great cheeses were made there which were most 
highly esteemed, and were fit offerings for foreign 
princes. But the great charm of the place to Beatrice, 
was the hawking, and hunting the stag or wild boar, in 
which she would run terrible risks, and was absolutely 

A letter written about this time to her sister is very 
characteristic. "We are enjoying warm and splendid 
weather, and every day we go out riding with the dogs 
and falcons, and my husband and I never come home 
without having enjoyed ourselves exceedingly in hunt- 
ing herons and other water-fowl. . . . Game is so 
plentiful here that hares are to be seen jumping out at 
every corner. Indeed, the eye cannot take in all that 
one desires to see, and it is scarcely possible to count 
up the number of animals which are to be found in 
this neighbourhood. Nor must I forget to tell you 


flow every day Messer Galeazzo and I, with one or two 
other courtiers, amuse ourselves playing at ball after 
dinner. ... I tell you all this that you may know how 
well and happy I am, and how kind and affectionate 
my husband is. . . ." In the next letter we hear about 
wolf-hunts and narrow escapes; and Isabella is eager 
to take part in the matter, and show that she has as 
much courage as her sister. 

Meantime the position of Isabella of Arragon, 
nominally Duchess of Milan, must have been a great 
contrast to that of her younger cousin Beatrice. Her 
husband, Gian Galeazzo, was weak and dissipated, and 
as time went on, his mental deficiency became more 
marked. He took no part whatever in public affairs, 
and could scarcely be induced to come to Court. In 
his fits of savage temper he was even reported to strike 
his wife, and she, poor tady, who was supposed to have 
married into such dignity and grandeur, found herself 
with no real influence of any kind. Still, for a time, 
the two cousins were apparently the best of friends ; 
they joined in the same sports, and occasionally in 
wild escapades, such as going to the market-place in 
disguise, where they nearly got into serious trouble. 
Then we find them arranging some masque with 
Turkish costumes, and Beatrice "works at the sewing 
like any old woman," as her husband remarks with 
amusement and satisfaction. 

Late that autumn, when the young Duchess had a 
sharp attack of illness, Lodovico was in great distress 
about her, and showed the utmost devotion, scarcely 
leaving her chamber night or day. On her recovery, 
the first thing she d'd was to drive seven miles into the 
country, to look on at a boar-hunt, and enjoyed herself 


immensely. Afterwards she paid a visit incognita to 
Genoa, for change of air from Pavia, which was damp 
in late autumn. 

At this time, Lodovico had asked the King of France 
to renew his investiture of the Duchy of Genoa, which 
had been first granted to Francesco Sforza. This 
Charles VIII. readily agreed to, and in the winter of 
140 1 he sent an embassy to Milan, which was splendidly 
entertained ; but, after having seen all the magnificence 
of the Duke of Bari's jewels and other possessions, 
they were rather disappointed with (he presents they 
themselves received, A few months later, Lodovico 
sent a return embassy to the French Court, where the 
nobles from Milan made a great sensation in their 
gorgeous robes of brocade and cloth of gold. His 
diplomacy was completely successful, as the King of 
France entered into close alliance with him. 

After this, the christening of Isabella's little son, the 
Count of Pavia, was celebrated with much festivity, 
and the young mother seems to have been quite happy 
and contented for a while, and full of hope for the 

In this peaceful time, Lodovico devoted much atten- 
tion to the improvement of the University of Milan as 
well as that of Pavia ; medicine and law were specially 
encouraged, scholars came from all parts of Europe, 
and a splendid library was collected and placed at their 
service. Many great works were executed and much 
progress was made with the Duorao, while Leonardo 
da Vinci had full occupation for his various talents. 
In his early letter to the Duke he says: "In time of 
peace I believe I can equal any man in constructing 
public buildings and conducting water from one place 


fo another. I can execute sculpture, whether in marble, 
bronze, or terra-cotta, and in painting I am the equal 
of any master, be he who he may. Again, I will 
undertake to execute the bronze horse, to the immortal 
glory and honour of the Duke, your father, of blessed 
memory, and of the illustrious House of Sforza. And 
if any of the things I have mentioned above should 
seem to you impossible and impracticable, I will gladly 
make trial of them in your park, or in any other place 
that may please your Excellency, to whom I commend 
myself in humility." 

To us, the letter rather breathes of well-justified 
pride. The great master spent the best years of his 
life in Milan, amongst congenial friends, happy in his 
work. The Court of Lodovico and Beatrice was a 
very galaxy of talent, and, to give only a brief account 
of the learned men, the poets, the artists, and the 
musicians, who honoured it with their presence, would 
take a volume in itself. Perhaps amongst these, after 
Ariosto who was but a passing guest, Niccola da 
Correggio the poet, Cristoforo Romano the sculptor 
and sweet singer, and Atalante and Serafino the 
musicians, were the most distinguished. As she grew 
into womanhood, the bright intelligence, the taste and 
character of the young Princess became more richly 
cultivated, in a society so stimulating and full of 

The great event for all Italy in the year 1492, was the 
death of Pope Innocent VIII. and the election of his 
successor, Cardinal Borgia, as Alexander VI. But it 
was some time before the far-reaching effects of this 
disastrous change were fully realised. Meanwhile that 
summer was a very happy one for the two sisters, 


Isabella and Beatrice, who spent a delightful time 
together at Pavia, Novaro, and Mortara, hunting the 
stag, the wolf, and even the wild boar to their hearts' 
content. A few quotations from the letters of the 
Marchesa to her husband at Mantua, will give a vivid 
picture of the chase in those days. 

" About four o'clock yesterday, all these lords and 
ladies rode out with me . . . and had fine sport. 
White tents were placed on the edge of the forest, and 
a pergola of green boughs, under which the Duchess 
and I took our places. . . . One stag of the eight 
which were found there ran out of the wood, fol- 
lowed by eight of the dogs. Messer Galeazzo galloped 
after it with a long spear, and killed it before our 

Another day she writes : "We went hunting to-day 
in the beautiful wooded valley of the Ticino, where all 
the stags were driven in, so that they were forced to 
swim the river and ascend the mountains ... we 
could watch every movement of the animals as the 
dogs chased them. . . . Many wild boars and goats 
were found, but only one bear was killed before our 
eyes, and one wild goat, which fell to my share. Last 
of all came a wolf . . . which soon followed its com- 
rades to the slaughter. And so, with much laughter 
and merriment, we returned home." 

On the return to Milan, Isabella seems to have been 
on the best of terms with the wife of Duke Gian 
Galeazzo, the Duchess Bona his mother, and his 
unmarried sister, Madonna Bianca, destined later to 
become the wife of the Emperor Maximilian. She was 
shown all the treasures of the Duke of Bari, and could 
not restrain a feeling of envy at the sight of so much 


wealth, which she would have had such a talent for 
spending ! 

Later in the year, Beatrice had a narrow escape 
in one of her reckless hunting expeditions, for she 
suddenly came upon a savage boar which had already 
wounded several hounds. She boldly attacked him, 
and he was followed up and slain by her husband and 
a companion. But the fatigue of that day had been 
too much for her; she became seriously ill, and her 
sister, who had left for Genoa, returned to be with her, 
while her husband showed himself as kind and devoted 
as ever. One of the chief qualifications for the sick 
room, seems to have been the faculty of amusing the 
patient. In letters of this period we are constantly 
reminded that depression of mind is a fatal sign, to be 
overcome at any cost by merry talk and the antics of 
dwarfs and jesters. 

In the following January, a son was born to the 
young Duchess of Ban, and the event was hailed with 
the most extraordinary rejoicings and public festivities. 
For a whole week the bells rang out a "gloria" from 
every church tower, stately processions passed through 
the streets of the city, with solemn thanksgivings in the 
Duomo and feasts to the people. The most splendid 
gifts were presented to the mother, and extravagance 
unheard of before, even in that sumptuous Court, was 
shown on the costly decoration of the chamber, where 
Beatrice received visits and congratulations. Within 
a few days, a daughter had been born to Isabella of 
Aragon, the Duchess of Milan, and the two ladies went 
together in state, to return thanks at Santa Maria with 
the Duchess of Ferrara. Their costumes are minutely 
described to Isabella d'Este by her maid of honour. 


"The Duchess of Ban had a lovely vest of gold 
brocade worked in red and blue silk, and a blue silk 
mantle trimmed with long-haired fur, and her hair 
coiled as usual in a silken net. She was covered with 
jewels." A fewdays later she appeared in a rose-coloured 
riding-habit and a large jewel in her silk hat, when she 
rode a gaily-caparisoned black horse. At the next 
entertainment the young princess wore a feather of 
rubies in her hair, and a dressof crimson satin embroi- 
dered with her favourite pattern of knots and com- 
passes, and also trimmed with many ribbons. Then 
again we hear of a new robe of gold-striped cloth 
worn with a crimson vest laced with fine silver thread. 

These gorgeous dresses are worthy of mention, as 
they emphasise the extreme importance attached to 
the birth of the young prince. It was a matter of 
general remark that royal honours were paid to this 
infant, which the little Count of Pavia had never 
received. Isabella was furious, and her mind was 
filled with the darkest suspicions, until she could 
endure her anxiety no longer, and wrote to her father, 
Alfonso of Aragon, pouring out the whole story of her 
wrongs. Unfortunately her fears were well grounded, 
for the birth of their son had awakened in the Duke 
and Duchess of Bari an eager ambition to make him 
heir to the ducal crown, and from that time there was 
a marked change in the policy of Lodovico. He was 
no longer content with the reality of power and the 
title of Regent, but aimed at being recognised through- 
out Italy as the Duke of Milan. 

The letter of Isabella met with warm sympathy at 
Naples from her father, who would have openly taken 
her part at once, but the old King of Naples advised 

delay, and suggested underhand means for achieving 
the ruin of Lodovico, while outwardly he remained on 
friendly terms. It was plot against plot, for II Moro 
lost no time in strengthening his alliance with the new 
Pope, and proposed to include in the league, the Vene- 
tian Republic, Mantua and Ferrara. He also wished 
to gain over to his side Maximilian, son of the Emperor 
Frederick III., and sent an ambassador to suggest that 
he should take as his bride Bianca Sforza, his niece, 
with an enormous dowry. He was also to ask for the 
investiture of Milan, which the Visconti dukes had 
received, but which their Sforza successors had felt too 
confident in a popular election and their own power, to 
apply for. If Lodovico could obtain this, he would be 
the legal Duke of Milan, and his nephew the usurper. 
Maximilian privately agreed to everything, and con- 
tinued his negotiations with Charles VIII. of France, 
who needed very little encouragement to make any 
alliance which would further his designs on Naples, 
and the Treaty of Senlis was concluded between them. 
Lodovico, with his wife and infant son, had been 
paying a visit to Ferrara, where they were entertained 
with the splendid entertainments and theatrical displays 
which Duke Ercole knew how to do so well, and he 
was on his way home, when a special envoy reached 
him with the news, having ridden 600 miles from 
Senlis in six days. This decided the Duke, and he 
resolved to throw in his lot with the French King 
against Naples. For the present all was to be kept 
secret, and he did not even venture to go in person to 
Venice for fear of rousing suspicion ; he therefore 
most astutely arranged that his wife should travel 
with her mother, as though bent on pleasant travel, 


and that she should act as his ambassador with the 
Doge and Signoria. No expense was spared for 
Beatrice to make a good impression ; she had ten 
chariots and fifty mules laden with baggage in her 
train, and her dresses and jewels were beyond all 
description. This was her first entrance into the poli- 
tical world, and she played her part well. 

A splendid reception was given by the Republic, 
with the striking decorations to which Venice lends 
herself so charmingly ; and when the bucentaurs of 
the guests passed S. Clemente, the air was filled with 
the thunder of artillery from the galleys, the arsenal, 
from every side at once. It must indeed have been 
a splendid sight, as Beatrice remarks in her letters — 
Venice in her glory, with every palace on the Grand 
Canal hung with rich Oriental draperies, the blue 
waters crowded with gondolas all decked in gay 
colours, the Doge and the Senators in their stately 
array, and the charm of a summer day over all. The 
visitors were taken to the Este Palace, which was 
magnificently decorated to receive them, and the next 
day, the young Duchess was received by the Signoria 
in the Doge's Sala del Collegio. Here she made an 
able speech, and set forth that as Regent of Milan her 
husband was in high esteem with both Germany and 
France, that he had received news of the French 
King's designs, and wished to consult them as to his 
action. She also touched on other matters, and, at a 
second interview, she pointed out that Lodovico had 
the treasure, the fortresses, and the army of Lombardy 
at his disposal. 

The Senators were much charmed with this young 
girl of eighteen and with her courage and eloquence, 



but they did not commit themselves to anything very 
definite. She wrote a full account of this to her 
husband, and also told him of all the grand entertain- 
ments provided for her, which she thoroughly enjoyed, 
as well as the admiration which she received. 

That was an eventful year, for, in October, Beatrice 
had the great sorrow of losing her mother, the good 
Duchess Leonora of Ferrara — the first grief she had 
ever known in her happy life. The following month, 
there was carried out the compact of marriage for 
Bianca Maria Sforza with Maximilian, who was now 
Emperor since his father's death. This was on the 
usual scale of princely magnificence, and the trousseau 
alone was valued at 100,000 ducats, and was publicly 

Early in 1493, the strained situation of affairs in Italy 
became more complicated by the death of Fcrrante, 
the old King of Naples, and the succession of Alfonso, 
whose hatred of Lodovico was stronger than any other 
feeling, and who was willing to make any sacrifice to 
win over the Pope to his side. Upon this the Duke of 
Ban threw himself into the French alliance with all 
his soul and hurried on the invasion of Italy, send- 
ing at once as his ambassador, Messer Galeazzo to 
Charles VIII,, who had so often desired to have the 
gallant knight in his service. Thus did his fatal 
ambition become the cause of all his country's misery, 
and, in the end, of his own ruin. 

The next year saw the invasion of Italy by the 
French ; the Duke of Orleans being the first to 
arrive in his own territory of Asti, between Turin and 
Alexandria, which he inherited from his grandmother 
Valentina Visconti. Charles VIII. reached Asti early 


in September and was met by Lodovico, and splendidly 
received by Beatrice, who brought her ladies and 
musicians with her. His mean appearance must have 
been rather a shock to her, but he behaved with much 
courtesy, and his followers were greatly impressed by 
the beauty and magnificence of the Italian ladies. The 
French king paid a state visit to Pavia, and had 
scarcely left before the death of Gian Galeazzo, who 
had been seriously ill for some time, in the watchful 
care of his mother and wife. There was later a 
suspicion of poison, but without serious foundation. 
Lodovico lost no time in sending for the promised 
investiture from the Emperor Maximilian, and a few 
days later was publicly proclaimed Lord of Milan, and 
rode through the city in a mantle of gold brocade. 
The late duke having been buried with the "greatest 
pomp and honour," II Moro hastened to the French 
camp. He had attained his desire, and reached the 
summit of his ambition. 

The unfortunate Isabella broke down altogether after 
her husband's death, and refused to be comforted. She 
had lost everything ; and now that her son had been 
robbed of his inheritance she was indeed friendless 
and forlorn. 

Meantime events made rapid progress ; Piero dei 
Medici in terror, gave up Florence and all her strong- 
holds to the French king without a blow ; Siena threw 
open her gates, and supplied him with money and pro- 
visions, and in December, Charles entered Rome and 
dictated terms of peace to the Pope himself. Still 
continuing his victorious course, the French king led 
his array against Naples, from whence Alfonso fled, 
leaving his son Ferrante in his place. The invader 
129 1 


met with little resistance, and on February 22 was 
crowned, in the Cathedral of Naples, King of the Two 
Sicilies. The news of these successes filled all Italy 
with dismay, and Lodovico realised too late what he 
had done. His reputation was still so high, that he was 
appealed to on all sides to turn against the foreign 
conqueror, and save his country from ruin. In that 
dark hour of danger he was quite willing to act at once, 
and a league was hastily concluded with Maximilian, 
the Pope, Venice, Spain, Milan, and other Italian 
States against France. It was publicly proclaimed in 
Venice on Palm Sunday, and all the ambassadors 
formed a stately procession round the Piazza San 

Meantime Milan had been enjoying gay entertain- 
ments in honour of the birth of Beatrice's second son, 
Francesco, and most of the Este family had paid visits- 
of congratulation to her. The Marchesa of Mantua 
found endless delight in all the treasures of art which 
her brother-in-law had collected, and found time also 
to condole with the unhappy Duchess Isabella. It was 
not until the month of May that the long promised 
investiture from the Emperor reached Milan, and 
Lodovico with extraordinary pomp and magnihcence, 
was crowned Duke of Milan, Count of Pavia and 
Angera, by the Grace of God, and the will of his 
Majesty Maximilian. He was then clothed in the 
ducal mantle and cap, and received the sceptre and 
sword of State, afterwards riding in a brilliant pro- 
cession to San Ambrogio, to return public thanks. 
To Beatrice and her husband this was the great day 
of their lives, when they had reached the very summit 
of their ambition. 


But life has strange contrasts in store for us, and 
a pinnacle is a dangerous place. Within a week the 
Duke of Orleans made a sudden night attack on 
Novaro, the citadel surrendered, and with a strong 
force he marched on towards the capital. Then a 
strange thing happened. When the Duke heard the 
news he lost his presence of mind, and fled to the 
Castello of Pavia, with his wife and children. It 
was Beatrice who sent for the nobles and made all 
arrangements for the defence of the city, with absolute 
coolness and courage. Fortunately succour was at 
hand ; troops arrived from Venice, and, with their 
help, the forces of Milan drove the French back to 
Novaro. Lodovico recovered himself, the promised 
army arrived from Germany, and the allies could take 
the held with 25,000 men, under the command of 
Isabella's husband, the Marchese of Mantua. On 
July 5 a battle was fought at Fornova, where the 
French were defeated, but were suffered to make good 
their retreat through want of discipline amongst the 
foreign mercenaries in the army of Italy. The Duke 
of Orleans meanwhile remained a source of anxiety, 
as he was strongly garrisoned in the fortress of Novaro, 
within thirty miles of Milan, a constant menace to 
the neighbourhood. In July he was besieged by 
the Venetian army, and it was decided to blockade 
the town rather than make an attempt to take it by 

On that broad plain of Lombardy a great review of 
the whole army was held in August, at which Beatrice 
was present with her husband, who now sought her 
company and advice in all his undertakings. By this 
time the French king was very tired of the war and 


could get no more supplies of money or soldiers from 
home, while his wife, Anne de Bretagne, implored 
him to return. All the combatants were anxious for 
peace, and in September a great conference was held 
near the ancient city of Vercelli, a few miles from 
Novaro. It is very interesting to note that the young 
Duchess was in attendance with her husband at every 
meeting, that she had a clear grasp of the whole 
subject, and, without putting herself unduly forward, 
was ready at all points, to the wonder of the French 

At length, after many weary delays, peace was con- 
cluded. Louis of Orleans marched out of Novaro 
with the miserable remnant of his troops ; Lodovico's 
title to Genoa and Savona was admitted ; but he had 
to cancel the immense debt owed him by France, 
and to pay 50,000 ducats more as a war indemnity, 
besides other concessions, which must have terribly 
impoverished his duchy for years. But he was now 
relieved from anxiety and free to pursue other ambi- 
tious plans, for his position in Italy was higher than it 
had ever been. He was much gratified the following 
summer of 1496 by a formal visit from the Emperor 
Maximilian ; but it was first arranged that the Duke 
and Duchess should travel to meet him at Mais, on 
the frontier of the Tyrol. We have a striking picture 
of his arrival with a hunting-party, in a grey tunic with 
the Order of the Golden Fleece, and a lion skin hang- 
ing on his side. He treated Lodovico and his wife 
with the greatest friendliness. They all attended mass 
together and had wonderful banquets in the woods. 
Maximilian also held a conference with them and 
agreed upon a new league, then he rode back with 


them over ihe Alps to Bonnio, where llicy had a 
chamois hunt. 

The following month he paid his promised visit to 
the Duke and Duchess at their country palace of 
Vivegano. He was much pleased with his reception, 
and asked that their eldest boy, Ercole, might be called 
Maximilian after him. This intimacy with the Emperor 
created some jealousy in Italy ; but the renown of 
Lodovico rose higher than ever ; all his designs 
seemed to be crowned with success, and he beiieved 
himself the favourite of fortune. 

It was during this time of peace that Leonardo was 
engaged on his famous fresco of the " Last Supper," in 
the refectory of the Dominican convent at S. Maria 
delle Grazie, and the friars would complain to the 
Duke that he was so slow at his work and had not yet 
put in the head of Judas. Lodovico was as eager as 
ever about public works ; but he began to find himself 
much straitened for money, and the people became 
loud in their complaints of the heavy taxes imposed 
upon them. He seems to have become somewhat 
demoralised by all the adulation and Battery which he 
had received, for we hear rumours of his devotion to 
one of the ladies-in-waiting, Lucrezia Crivelli, whose 
portrait he caused to be painted by his great artist. 
The news of this caused much anxiety at Ferrara, and 
it is probable that it reached the ears of Beatrice. 

But the bright, eager-hearted young princess was 
not destined to have much more of earthly sorrow or 
joy, for on January 2, 1497, after she had spent the 
wintry afternoon in prayer at the Dominican Church 
of S. Maria delle Grazie, she was taken suddenly ill, a 
little son was born dead, and, to the grief and dismay 


of all, she breathed her last. So terrible and unlooked- 
for a calamity touched the heart of every one, and the 
mourning for the beautiful, brilliant Duchess of Milan 
was universal. Cut off thus in her prime, with the 
world at her feet, her loss has that touch of tender 
pathos which none can resist. And yet to us, who can 
read that future which was hidden from her, does it 
not rather seem that she was snatched from the evil to 
come — from dark ruin and disaster which would have 
broken down her proud, brave spirit ? * 

Her husband was broken-hearted, and we may well 
believe that to his bitter grief were added the pangs of 
remorse for having ever given her cause to grieve. To 
her sweet memory he caused to be erected that exqui- 
site monument which was described on the opening 
page, as an enduring memorial for the ages to come, 
of one so dearly loved. 

* Within three short years followed the ruin and downfall 
of Lodovico, and his sons, more fully dwelt upon in the close of 
Bianca Sforza's life. 



THE story of Bianca Sforza is interesting to us rather 
as a striking chronicle of Renaissance life than as a 
study of individual character. 

She had neither the vigour and courage of her half- 
sister, Catarina, nor the charm and intellect of her 
young companion, Beatrice d'Este, and although we are 
told, in the flowery language of the day, that she was, 
" Bianca di perle, e bella piu che '1 sole," we have no 
very convincing evidence of her great beauty. Still 
we are told she had a tall, slim figure and abundance of 
fair hair, so much admired in her day. 

She was born on April 15, 1472, the eldest daughter 
of Bona of Savoy, Duchess of Milan, and her husband, 
the Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza. Of her two brothers 
— Gian Galeazzo, the ill-fated heir to the duchy, was 
born in 1469, then followed Ermes — and she had one 
little sister, two years younger than herself, who was 
betrothed as an infant to Alfonso, the new-born son of 
the Duke of Ferrara. Nothing can exceed the magni- 
ficence and luxury which surrounded the early years 
of her life. In the new Castello of the Porta Giovia, 
the most splendid entertainments, the most costly 
banquets succeeded each other in the sumptuous Coun 


of Milan, which under this, the second of the Sforza 
dukes, surpassed all that the old Visconti lords had 
ever dreamed of. 

The chronicles of Milan prove Duke Galeazzo to 
have been a man of evil life, and of many crimes, but 
he was a patron of artists and sculptors, whom he 
kept employed to decorate his palaces ; he was the 
founder of the famous city library, he encouraged 
musicians and singers, and he took the greatest 
interest in the professors of the rising University of 
Pavia. The Duchess Bona, who had been brought 
up at the Court of Louis XI. with her sister, the 
king's wife, was reckless in her extravagance, and set 
a fashion of wearing costly dresses and priceless 
jewels, such as were rivalled at no other Court in 
Italy. Very different from her mother-in-law, the 
good Duchess Bianca, she did not trouble herself 
much about the education of her children, but being 
a kind-hearted woman, " of little sense," as one of her 
biographers remarks, she let them spend their time in 
pleasure and idleness. 

A Milanese historian, Corio, gives us a minute 
description of the famous visit to Lorenzo dei Medici, 
which the Duke and Duchess of Milan paid in 1471- 
There were no less than twelve litters, which could be 
used as "caretti," but which were carried on mules 
over the mountains ; they had awnings of cloth of 
gold, and the great feather mattresses laid in them 
were of cloth of gold or silver, or of crimson satin. 
The Duke was accompanied by all his great feudatories 
with their attendants, all the members of his household 
were dressed in velvet, while some of them had golden 
collars, and his grooms wore silk adorned with silver. 


Besides an army of gorgeous followers, there were fifty 
led horses and one hundred mules covered with cloth of 
gold, two thousand other horses,and two hundred mules 
covered with rich damask to carry the baggage. Five 
hundred couples of hounds with huntsmen, falcons, and 
falconers, trumpeters, jesters, players, and musicians, 
would seem to us rather an encumbrance for a journey 
over the Apennines, by a steep bridle-path. 

But all the pomp and magnificence of which this 
was a symbol was destined to last but a few years, for 
when little Bianca was only four years old, Galeazzo's 
career of tyranny and profligacy was suddenly cut 
short by his assassination at the door of San Stefano. 
We are told that Bona had implored her husband not 
to go forth from the Castello that day, and that three 
ravens had been seen flying round him, and that as he 
was entering the church the anthem rang out : " Sic 
transit gloria mundi." 

After his death, the Duchess Bona with the help 
of her astute minister, Cecco Simonetta, was able to 
maintain the regency for her son Gian Galeazzo ; but 
after a few years, by her own folly and vanity, which 
have been spoken of elsewhere, she brought ruin upon 
her own cause by the unwise recall of Lodovico il 
Moro, her brother-in-law. Simonetta had duly warned 
her, for he exclaimed : " Illustrissima Signora, do you 
know what will be the end of this ? My head will 
be cut off, and ere long you will lose this kingdom." 

She must have remembered this prophecy only three 
years later, on the night of her shameful flight from 
Milan when, maddened by the treachery of her low- 
born favourite, Tassino, whom she had loaded with 
honours, she forsook her home and her children. 


Meantime Bianca lived on with her brothers and 
young sister in (he great Caslello of Milan, where they 
had an outward show of grandeur, while their Uncle 
Lodovico had usurped the government and ruled the 
duchy with despotic power. Her eldest brother Gian 
Galeazzo had always been a sickly delicate child, and 
as years passed it was plain that he was weak in mind 
also. He could apply his mind to no serious study, 
and only cared for dogs and horses, On public 
occasions he was put forward as Duke of Milan with 
regal pomp ; but for the rest of his time, he only asked 
to be left to his low pleasures. He had been betrothed 
in his father's lifetime to Isabella of Aragon, the 
grand-daughter of Ferdinand, King of Naples, and the 
marriage was solemnised with much pomp in 1488. 

Bianca's hand had been promised to the young 
Prince of Savoy, and on his early death, she was 
betrothed in the Duomo of Milan to the eldest son of 
Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. This prince 
had strong artistic and literary tastes, as we learn that 
he was the fortunate owner of a rare manuscript by 
Festus Pompeius, which he had copied for Lodovico, 
who had promised his father a beautiful painting of the 
Holy Family by Leonardo da Vinci. This prince also 
ordered an exquisite organ to be made by the famous 
Lorenzo da Pavia. But again Bianca was unfortunate 
in her matrimonial engagements, for when King 
Matthias died, in 1490, his son was deprived of his 
crown, and, in consequence, the proposed alliance with 
Milan was broken off, and he lost his bride also. 

Meantime many things had happened, of which the 

young princess was a passive spectator. Her uncle 

Lodovico had taken to himself a young wife, the gay 



Beatrice d'Este, whose brother Alfonso had come with 
her from Ferrara to fetch his own promised bride, 
Anna Sforza, the only sisfer of Hi, inc. i. Her mother, 
Bona, had returned to Milan on this occasion, and 
with her elder daughter by her side, took a prominent 
part in the State reception. They were also great per- 
sonages during the splendid entertainments, which 
were continued for a whole week. But though we 
hear little about Bianca, it must have been a trial to 
lose her only sister, whose sweet temper and gentle 
disposition are often mentioned. The parting would 
have been sadder still had they known that, after a few 
short years of quiet happiness, Anna would be lost 
indeed to them by an early death or^ the birth of her 
first child. "She was very beautiful and very charm- 
ing, and there is little to tell about her because she 
lived so short a time," says an old chronicler. 

The coming of Beatrice d'Este must have added 
fresh life and gaiety to the life of Bianca, who was 
much at the Court with her other ladies and joined in 
many of the hunting excursions. But we never find 
her mentioned as adding any brightness to the party, 
and her feeling was no doubt one of jealousy towards 
this Princess, three years younger than herself, who 
had so much more brilliant a position. Her uncle 
Lodovico appears to have looked upon her as a useful 
counter in the game of politics, for, when he sent his 
ambassadors to France in 1492, we find him offering 
her hand to the young King of Scotland, James IV. 
But this came to nothing, and we find Madonna Bianca 
mentioned on various State occasions, such as the visit 
of Isabella d'Este and the stately procession to return 
thanks for the birth of Beatrice's boy. 


So far she has always been a spectator ; but the time 
was approaching when she was to take the place of 
honour in her turn. In 1493, when Bianca had 
reached the mature age of twenty-one, her uncle the 
Duke of Ban was anxious to promote a close alliance 
with the Emperor and his son Maximilian by any 
means in his power. This prince, who was now thirty- 
nine years of age, was a widower and had recently 
been deprived of his promised bride, Anne de Bretagne, 
by the King of France. Lodovico sent his envoy, 
Erasmo Brasca, with private instructions to offer the 
hand of Bianca Maria Sforza, his niece, with the 
immense dowry of 400,000 ducats, to the King of 
the Romans in exchange for the renewed investiture of 
Milan. Maximilian was tempted by the offer and will- 
ing to agree to it, but he stipulated that it should be 
kept secret for the present. His father, the Emperor 
Frederick III., was still alive, but not expected to 
recover. In the month of June following he sent 
special messenger from his castle of Gmunden, to ask 
for the hand of Madonna Bianca Maria Sforza, sister 
of Gian Galeazzo, Duke of Milan, while at the same time 
he promised Lodovico the investiture of the duchy for 
himself. In August, on his father's death, Maximilian 
became Emperor, and announced his purpose of send- 
ing ambassadors to celebrate his marriage and bring 
the Lady Bianca to Innsbruck. 

This despatch gave the greatest satisfaction at Milan, 
and the mother of the expectant bride was especially 
delighted at so splendid an alliance. The wedding was 
settled to take place by proxy at the end of November, 
and the most splendid preparations were set on foot at 
once. The Court was in mourning for the Duchi 




Ferrara, the mother of Beatrice, but that was to be laid 
-iside for the occasion. The trousseau of the bride was 
to be on the most magnificent scale, worthy of an 
empress, and was to include a great store of fine linen, 
sumptuous bed-hangings, carpets, mirrors, and gold 
and silver plate. Nor was this all, for the chronicler 
of Bianca tells us of gorgeous horse- trappings and 
saddles, and also of unique altar-cloths and ornaments 
for a chapel, all this besides the most splendid dresses 
and priceless jewels. Bianca must have felt that if her 
day had been long in coming, such grandeur would 
indeed make up for the delay. 

On the 7th of November the two chosen ambassadors 
from the Emperor, or, as he was still called, the King 
of the Romans, not having yet received the imperial 
crown, reached Milan, and were met by the Regent and 
his nephew, the Duke of Milan, at the Porta Orientale, 
and taken with all honour to the Castello. They were 
feasted and made much of, and received splendid pre- 
sents while they awaited the wedding-day, which was 
fixed for the 30th of November. The city was decorated 
with rich tapestry and armorial bearings, and brocades, 
and myrtle boughs, while on the triumphal arch, in 
front of the Castello, was placed the great cfay. model 
of Leonardo's statue of Francesco Sforza on horse- 
back. The imperial bride looked her best that day, as 
she rode through the city in her triumphal car drawn 
by four white horses. 

She wore a vest of crimson satin, embroidered with 
gold thread and covered with jewels ; her train was of 
great length, and the sleeves of her dress looked like 
two wings. The Duchess Beatrice sat on one side and 
the Duchess Isabella, wife of Gian Galeazzo, on the 


other. Next, there came chariots with all the ambassa- 
dors of various princes, and Lodovico and his nephew 
on horseback. Then followed ten chariots with the 
noblest maidens in Milan, and the ladies of the bride, 
all wearing the same livery, with tan-coloured camoras 
and mantles of bright green satin. The streets were 
crowded with men and women, and so hung with 
colours and green boughs that it rather looked like 
May than November. The ceremony was performed 
by the Archbishop of Milan, "to the sound of organ- 
music, flutes, and trumpets, and the singing of the 
exquisite choir voices." The Princess Bianca stood 
before the altar with the ambassadors of the Emperor, 
and after the marriage service was concluded the 
splendid imperial crown was placed on her "bare 
head," as Calvi tells us, by the Archbishop, assisted 
by the Bishop of Brixen, who had given her the ring. 

Then the great procession passed down the Duomo, 
the train and the sleeves of the bride being supported 
by great nobles ; and they all rode through the streets, 
.1 baldacchino of white damask, lined with ermine, 
being carried over the head of the newly-made queen. 
All the ambassadors agreed that they had never seen so 
magnificent a sight, and the illuminations and festivi- 
ties which followed for two days and nights were on 
the same scale. Duchess Bona is said to have wept 
for joy at her daughter's great promotion, and almost 
forgot all her past troubles in the triumph of the hour. 

Three days later, Bianca set forth on her journey to 
Innsbruck with a great company, the ambassadors of 
Maximilian, her brother Krmes, and, fortunately for us, 
amongst her retinue was the envoy from Milan, Erasmo 
Brasca, whose letters give us a full account of the 


journey and much that happened afterwards. All the 
Court of Milan accompanied the travellers as far as 
Corao, where they were conducted to the cathedral for 
a solemn service of thanksgiving. The next day the 
bride said farewell to her mother and all her family, 
and with a gala show of decorated barges, to the 
sound of triumphant music, the gaily-dressed company 
crossed the blue waters of the lake, as far as Bellagio. 
Here they rested for the night, and were hospitably 
entertained at the castle, continuing their journey next 
morning. But now their troubles began, for they had 
not proceeded far up the lake when the sky was 
darkened, and a sudden storm came on with so much 
violence that the festal barges were scattered in all 
directions. The ladies, in terror, sobbed aloud, and 
fell on their knees to pray for mercy ; most of the 
courtiers were quite as much alarmed, and even the 
boatmen were full of dismay. 

The chief indignation of Messer Erasmo was directed 
against the duke's favourite astrologer and physician, 
Ambrogig da Rosate, without whose advice nothing 
was ever undertaken. " Infelice" is the mildest term 
the poor envoy uses, and he declares there was a 
"vento indiavolato a Bellagio." However, after toss- 
ing about all day, the queen was able to put back to 
the shore, and make anolher start next morning, and 
on December 8 the wedding-party boldly adventured 
to cross the passes of the Alps. At the present day a 
traveller would hesitate to ride across the Stelvio Pass 
with its excellent road at that season, and when we 
remember that a rough mule-track was then the only 
way across the mountains, we cannot wonder that 
these great ladies, who so often took their wedding 


journeys in the dead of winter, had to suffer great 

" Those fearful cruel mountains " were indeed 
terrible, and one lady-in-waiting, Madonna Michela, 
had to be left behind at Gravedona, utterly exhausted, 
while the others were so loud in their complaints that 
poor Bianca made an angry appeal to Erasmo, who 
wrote thus to Milan : "Our gracious lady bears herself 
well on the whole, but she constantly complains that I 
deceive her, for each morning when she mounts her 
horse I tell her that she will not find the path so rough 
that day, and then by ill-fate, lo 1 it is worse than ever." 

Itwas not until Christmas Eve that the poor weather- 
beaten travellers at length found themselves in safety 
at Innsbruck, to discover, to Bianca's cruel disappoint- 
ment, that Maximilian was not there to receive her. 
The ambassador was still more troubled, and wrote at 
once to the laggard bridegroom at Vienna to inform 
him of their arrival. Meantime the Archduchess 
Sigismond of Austria did her best to entertain the 
neglected bride with balls and parties, which made her 
quite happy, and she wrote long letters to Milan telling 
how the ladies had been wearing fancy dresses, a la 
Tedesca, and a la Lombarda ; and how the painter who 
had travelled from home with her, Ambrogio de Predis, 
had painted a portrait of Madonna Barbara, She did 
not realise the gravity of the situation, but poor Brasca, 
quite distracted with anxiety, set out for Vienna at once 
on receiving permission to do so, taking with him this 
very singular epistle from the bride : "Serenissimo Re 
e Signore mio, 1 find myself under such obligations 
towards your Majesty, that 1 am quite dazed at the love 
you manifest for me. I could not if I tried express the 


joy which floods my soul. Being unable to testify to 
it sufficiently in writing, 1 send Messer Erasmus 
Brasca to speak on my behalf ; and 1 beseech 
your Majesty to believe him, and I commend myself 
to you. 

" Innspruck. XXVJ. Decembris. 1493. 
"Maiestatis Vestra Serva. 

"Bianca Maria, manu propria." 

The ambassador was determined to do his duty 
manfully, and not return alone. Maximilian received 
him with marked friendliness, invited him to entertain- 
ments, and spoke in Battering terms of the Sforza 
family ; but he said nothing about going to Innsbruck, 
and the unhappy Brasca became more and more dis- 
tressed. Two months had passed away before the 
imperial procession set forth, and Bianca having no 
reluctance to travel part way, the final and long-hoped- 
for meeting took place at Ata on March 9. " To the 
confusion of all our enemies 1" cries Brasca, in his 
letter to his master at Milan. 

Bianca's married life had not begun in a very pro- 
pitious manner, and this triumph of diplomacy was 
not a great success for her. She had always been 
childish and foolish, and her husband compared her 
unfavourably with his first wife, Marie de Bourgogne ; 
telling Brasca that his mistress was quite as fair but 
not so wise as that lady. Still he behaved kindly to 
his bride at first, and bestowed upon her splendid 
robes for her coronation when she had a fancy to 
appear in German fashion. Then she took a passionate 
liking for one of the maids-of-honour, Violante Caimi, 
who seems to have been as unwise as her mistress, and 


nude mischief by her intrigues. When Bianca had 
the opportunity she would be wildly extravagant, as 
when the city of Cologne made her a wedding-present 
of 2ooo florins she actually managed to spend it in 
one day. This came to the ears of Maximilian, who 
expressed his annoyance to her, and she lost her 

The result of all this was that her husband soon 
became tired of her, and would leave her for weeks 
together at Innsbruck, in the gloomy old castle with its 
vast walls, where she had nothing to relieve her dul- 
ness, and would look back with longing to the gay 
sunny palaces at Milan and Pavia. Before the end of 
the year she had fresh cause for trouble in the news 
which reached her of her brother Gian Galeazzo's 
death. She also received letters from her mother, 
who spoke in very bitter terms of the conduct of 
Lodovico in assuming the duchy, but many of these 
were suppressed by her secretary, II Cotta, who on 
more than one occasion owns, with frank impudence, 
that he has burnt a certain letter. 

Meantime, Lodovico had never received the promised 
investiture of Milan, and he sent a special envoy, 
Maffeo Pirovano, to press the matter. The poor man 
travelled in the winter, and met with many adven- 
tures ; floods and terrible storms, and highwaymen in 
the streets of Cologne, but he at length arrived at Ant- 
werp, where he was to meet the emperor, who made 
a great impression upon him. He writes : " II Seren- 
issimo Re has the most noble presence of body, as well 
as the highest qualities of soul and mind ; and, to 
judge from outward signs, there is no doubt of his 
wisdom and loyilty . . . and, if his dealings seem slow 
i 4 6 


and lingering, there are two difficulties . . . want of 
money, and the small confidence he can place in his 

The Empress Bianca was very glad to see a friend 
from her dear Milan, and had much talk with him. 
She gave him many messages and commissions when 
*ie went home. He was to take her condolences to her 
mother and the widowed Isabella, and he was to ask 
sll her family to send their portraits. 

She wrote specially to the young Duchess Beatrice, 
asking her for silks and powders and scents, and, above 
all, a bunch of heron's plumes. She also wanted some 
"pearls which were in possession of Catarina Sforza, and 
she sent a private message to Lodovico begging that he 
would persuade II Re Serenissimo, the Emperor, to 
pay a visit to Italy, " but do not say that it is I who 
wish it." 

Bianca frequently wrote to the Duke of Milan, asking 
her uncle to send her jewels or perfumes, or on one 
occasion a special white brocaded velvet for a dress, for 
these were all the things she cared for. The news of 
Beatrice's sudden death in 1497 must have grieved even 
her shallow nature, for she had a kindly disposition. 
In the after years, when Lodovico's troubles came 
upon him, when all his ambitious hopes had failed and 
he was cast down from his high estate, the wife of 
Maximilian was his best friend. But it was little she 
could do for him, as she never had any real influence 
with her husband, and she could only give the unfor- 
tunate duke, an outcast and an exile, hospitable wel- 
come in her castle at Innsbruck, when he fled there in 
September 1499. It must have been a painful meeting 
for him with the faithful Erasmo Brasca, who still 


lived on at the Court of Bianca, devoted to her sen 
until his death in 1501. 

It was while II Moro was ill with an attack of a 
in the emperor's gloomy castle, that the fatal news 
reached him of the treachery of the man he had so 
absolutely trusted, the Governor of the Castello of 
Milan, where he had left all his priceless treasures. It 
was well garrisoned and supplied with provisions and 
ammunition, but Bernardino da Corte surrendered it 
to the enemy for a share of the plunder. Lodovico 
remained silent for some minutes, unable to grasp the 
full horror of what had befallen him. His great cap- 
tain, Galeazzo, sat speechless by his side, till his master 
turned to him and said, " Never since the day of Judas 
has there been so black a traitor as Bernardino." And 
after that he kept silence for the whole day. 

But as time passed on his indomitable spirit revived, 
and he adopted a new motto : " 1 will beat the drum in 
winter and dance all the summer," with the device of a 
tambourine. A famous preacher of Verona wrote to 
him, drawing a moral from his fall, and preaching jus- 
tice to him j and this gave him an opportunity of 
putting forth an address to the world at large, justi- 
fying his conduct. What a good Christian he had 
always been, hearing so many masses, giving so much 
in alms I Who had a greater love for justice than him- 
self ? and he proceeds to explain a few doubtful matters. 
He had only desired peace and prosperity for his people, 
who were dear to him as his own children. Finally he 
calls upon his subjects to place him once more on the 
throne of his forefathers. 

Some old friends respond to his call, and, joining 
him at Innsbruck, tell him of the awful state of Milan 



under the French, and assure him that his return is 
eagerly desired. On this the Duke makes a fresh 
effort. Maximilian is induced to supply him with all 
he can raise in the way of money and soldiers, he finds 
means to raise a force of mercenaries, and even appeals 
to the King of England and to the Turks. On 
January 24 he took his last leave of his niece, and set 
forth on the disastrous expedition which closed in ruin 
and despair. 

We may imagine how sadly Btanca watched, from 
afar, his last struggle and defeat, his hopeless and 
lingering captivity in the dungeons of Loches, where 
he ate his heart out like a caged lion, until his final 
release by death in the month of May 1508. The 
empress had never ceased her efforts to help her 
unfortunate uncle, and Maximilian interceded in vain 
with the French king for his release. His two young 
sons found a home at Innsbruck when all else had 
failed, those idolised children of the Duchess Beatrice, 
born to so princely a fortune and such splendid hopes. 
It must have been a sad and gloomy life for them, 
brought up in that uncultured Court in the midst of 
boorish barons, who disliked the more gently-nurtured 
Italians, of whom so many had taken refuge in their 
exile at Innsbruck, and amongst them the gallant 
Galeazzo. The elder brother, Maximilian, was the 
god-son of the emperor, who in later years took up 
arms on his behalf. But their best friend was always 
the empress, and it must have been a great loss to 
them when she died, from the lingering disease from 
which she had suffered for years, on December 31, 
1 5 10, saddened by the evil fate of all she loved. 

The Empress Bianca Maria Sforza, wife of the great 


Maximilian, was buried in the ancient church oi 
Franciscans at Innsbruck. Here a splendid tomb 
raised to the memory of the emperor, first of its 
in all Europe, and in the midst of this masterpie* 
bronze work, there still meets our view the st; 
image, robed in the stiff brocades of her lifetim 
his unloved second wife, who pined away in that 
land, far from her sunny Lombard home. 



As we approach the history of this peerless lady, "la 
prima donna del mondo," we are almost overwhelmed 
with the amount of information which has been col- 
lected with regard to her. In the libraries of Mantua 
and Milan, of Rome, of Florence, of Turin, &c, a long 
train of scholars and learned men have devoted years to 
the study of documents and correspondence connected 
with her, and have died ere the task was completed. 

Of her own letters more than two thousand have 
been preserved, and her whole splendid career, from 
1474 to 1539, is spread out before us in a flood of 
dazzling light. 

We see her in the most intimate privacy of her 
family from childhood to age ; we trace her relations 
towards every distinguished person of her time, crowned 
head, or artist, or man of letters — learning what they 
said, and what she said and thought — we follow in each 
step of her frequent travels, so keenlyenjoyed ; and we 
are even admitted to her toilet, and informed on what 
occasion she wore her crimson satin with gold and 
silver embroidery, her violet velvet with gold acorns, 
or her priceless mantle made of eighty of the finest 


Surrounded from her childhood by all that was 
beautiful,~she was early distinguished by her cultured 
taste in music and art, her proficiency in classical 
studies, and her marvellous charm. It was her singular 
good fortune that, brought up in the very heart of the 
Renaissance, the small and passing incidents of her 
every-day life, are to us memorials of a classic age 
when the gods of Parnassus walked with men. Her 
march through life is a triumphal progress. Ever the 
"cynosure of neighbouring eyes" for her beauty and 
talent, poets write endless sonnets in her praise, adula- 
tion surrounds her on every side, until from her equal 
height she would advise the greatest masters in their 
own craft ; witness some forty or fifty letters to a 
Bellini or a Perugino, with minute descriptions as to 
how they were to paint the picture for her. *■ 

Such magnificent audacity takes away one's breath 1 

Isabella has all that she desires, she has but to hear 
of the discovery of an antique, of a work of art, a price- 
less gem, a rare MS., an Aldine edition, a silver lute, a 
choice inlaid organ — any new and beautiful thing — but 
she straightway requests that it be sent to her, or if 
that be not possible, that another still more precious be 
procured for her. She would be outdone by no one, 
and nothing short of perfection would content her. 
Her supremacy was not alone artistic and intellectual. 
This lady of Mantua was the mirror of fashion for 
every Court in Europe. Stately princesses contest 
for early news of her gorgeous costumes, and humbly 
plead for the design of a sleeve, or the pattern of a new 

We seem to read her very soul in those letters of 
hers; always so beautifully expressed, with infinite tact 


and delicacy. She ever knew how to say the right 
thing; whether to deprecate the wrath of a pope, or 
hostile king, who distrusted her husband's policy ; 
whether to condole with a friend on the loss of a wife 
or a kingdom ; to arrange a diplomatic marriage, or 
lend her pet dwarf to lighten the tedium of a sick bed ; 
to plead for a cardinal's hat for her son, or beg for a 
Persian kitten. 

The Marchesa d'Este was beyond praise in most o 
the relations of life ; a pious and high-minded woman, 
and yet it was not safe to rely upon her too far. 
Dearly as she loved her friends and kindred, yet when 
they were utterly and hopelessly forsaken by fortune, 
she turned away from them with a sigh, to welcome 
their enemies with a smile. A true daughter of the 
light-hearted Renaissance, when their splendid palaces 
were looted, she was always ready to enrich herself 
with their spoils ; but when they came as suppliants 
to her gates, she would receive them with princely 
generosity if her own safety were secured. 

In the striking words of her last and most compre- 
hensive biographer : " Like others of her age she knew 
no regrets and felt no remorse, but lived wholly in the 
present, throwing herself with all the might of her 
strong vitality into the business or enjoyment of 
the hour, forgetful of the past and careless of the 
future." " 

Having thus introduced Isabella d'Este with this 
slight sketch and appreciation of her character, we turn 
to a short account of the events which are chiefly re- 
markable in her life. 

She was born in the palace of Ferrara on May 18, 
* Mrs. Ady. 

1474- Her father, Duke Ercole, was the descendant 
of that illustrious house of Este which had reigned for 
more than two hundred years over the fertile plains of 
Ferrara, Her mother was Leonora, the daughter of 
King Ferrante of Naples, and the name Isabel, by 
which her first daughter was baptized, may have been in 
honour of her kinswoman the great Queen of Spain. 

There does not seem to have been great rejoicing on 
the birth of a daughter, and there was still less when 
a little sister was born the next year ; but when the 
hoped-for heir to the duchy arrived in due time, there 
was no lack of enthusiasm and delight in the city. 
Those were troublous times, and, a few days after the 
christening of young Alfonso, the duchess and her 
infant children barely escaped with their lives from a 
conspiracy of the duke's nephew. 

In the following year Isabella took her first journei 
as far as Naples, where her little sister Beatrice was 
left behind with the grandfather for the next eight 
years. Meantime the young princesses, even at that 
early age, had attracted attention and interest at the 
neighbouring courts, and, after much negotiation, a 
public announcement was made on the Piazza, in 
the heart of old Ferrara, that Madonna Isabella 
was betrothed to Francesco, son of the Marquis of 
Mantua, and Madonna Beatrice to the Regent of Milan, 
Lodovico Sforza. 

This was early in 1480, when the elder girl was only 
six years old, and the following spring, on the Feast of 
St. George, the patron saint of Ferrara, she made the 
acquaintance of her future bridegroom, a bright, hand- 
some boy of fourteen. There seem to have 
great festivities on the occasion, and immense crow 


assembled to see the famous race for the pallium, 
which was won by the horses of the Mantuan guests, 
who appear to have greatly enjoyed their visit. 

Her marriage and future life being thus provided 
for, the small Isabella had time to go back to her 
lessons. Born in an atmosphere of cultivation and 
learning, she seems to have been the delight of her 
teachers, who were amazed at her " marvellous facility." 
Latin was her most serious study, and for this she had 
the most learned tutors, and was reported in later 
years to speak the language with ease and elegance. 
Besides her classical studies, she read all the poetry 
and literature within her reach in various modern lan- 
guages; she was a good musician, and learnt to play 
the clavichord and accompany her singing on the lute, 
and even found time to become proficient in design 
and embroidery. 

The finest works of art and the most beautiful 
treasures were always in sight, and in the Este Palace 
she met all the most distinguished men and women of 
the day. We are told that she grew up a beautiful 
girl, with regular features, sparkling dark eyes, a 
brilliant complexion, and thick waves of golden hair. 
She was not very tall, but she bore herself with stately 

Francesco, who was now Marquis of Mantua since 
his father's death, pressed on his wedding, which was 
at last fixed for the month of February 1490, when the 
bride would be almost sixteen. Nothing can exceed 
the exquisite taste and beauty of the presents prepared 
for her to take to her new home, on which artists, 
goldsmiths, and many of the most skilled craftsmen 
were engaged for more than a year. The wedding 


must have been a gorgeous spectacle, and is described 
by the chroniclers with ardent enthusiasm ; also the 
stately journey to Mantua in a gilded bucentaur, with 
attendant galleys, which sailed up the Po, and the 
grand entry into the city, garlanded with flowers and 
hung with banners, with ambassadors from every state 
in Italy riding in her train. 

But that which must have given most pleasure to the 
girl-bride was to meet at the foot of the great staircase 
of the Castello, her husband's sister, Elisabetta, who 
had recently married the Duke of Milan, and who 
then, and through life, was her dearest friendl 

"There is no one I love like you, except my sister 
Beatrice," she once wrote to her, and this affection 
never changed, in sorrow or joy. It must have been 
a great comfort to Isabella that she was able to keep 
her sister-in-law with her for the first few months in 
her new home, where all was so strange to her. Her 
husband was very much devoted to her, but they 
cannot have had much in common. He had always 
shown more taste for outdoor sports than for in- 
tellectual pursuits ; he was noted for his horses and 
dogs ; yet, if he had not much taste for books, he 
could be a generous patron to artists and men of 
letters. He was very proud of Andrea Mantegna, who 
lived at his Court, and had just finished his series of 
triumphs for the walls of the Castello. 

In the letters of this period we find how much 
Isabella was missed in her old home. One courtier 
writes : " Even the tricks and jests of the dwarfs and 
clowns fail to make us laugh." 

She wrote to ask her tutor to send her old Latin 
books that she might occupy herself with her studies, 


and she sent presents to her old friends, while her 
weekly letters to her mother showed devoted affection. 
Ferrara was at no very great distance, and she was 
able to pay occasional visits, especially during that first 
year, when preparations were being made for her 
sister's wedding. This took place with much magni- 
ficence in the Castello of Pavia ; but it was in January, 
and the journey thither in the depth of a severe 
■winter had been a terrible experience for (he Duchess 
Leonora, her two daughters, and their suite. 

When the young duchess was well settled at Milan, 
we read of frequent visits between the sisters ; but it 
■was rather a serious matter of expense for Isabella, 
who needed fine new dresses and jewels for herself and 
her suite, to do justice to the magnificent reception 
which she received at Milan. Her ideas of jewels were 
of the most princely magnificence. We hear of a 
constant succession of orders for rubies, emeralds, 
diamond rosettes, engraved amethysts, rosaries of black 
amber, and gold-enamelled roses, corals and turquoises, 
and gems unnumbered. If a goldsmith keeps the 
imperious lady waiting unduly, he will probably find 
himself in the dungeon of the Castello. What became 
of her dressmakers we do not hear, but they must have 
been overwhelmed with the costly variety of Oriental 
silks and velvets, the priceless brocades and fine linen 
with which they had to carry out her designs. 

But this outward splendour only satisfied one side of 
her nature. The young marchioness had an insatiable 
appetite for literature, and she seems to have read all 
the mediaeval romances of her day, in French and 
Spanish as well as Italian. But this did not interfere 
with her taste for the classical authors, her study of 


;he Christian Fathers, and her keen love for poetry. 
With all this she had time to hear sermons and to keep 
up her friendship with the saintly Dominican nun, the 
Beata Osanna. In a picture by Bonsignori, she is 
represented, with three of her ladies, kneeling at the 
feet of the holy woman. 

Isabella also devoted much attention to the delightful 
occupation of decorating her rooms in the grim old 
Lombard Castello, which was more fortress than 
palace. Nothing was too costly, too rare and exqui- 
site to satisfy her taste, and her own special chamber, 
overlooking the lake, with its inlaid woodwork and 
painted ceiling, its walls covered with priceless paint- 
ings, its treasures of rare books and musical instru- 
ments, silver and niello work, delicate glass from 
Murano . . . must have made this studio an ideal gem 
of the Renaissance. One little picture of Mantegna's 
which hung here is thus described : 

"The dying of Our Lady, the Apostles standing 
about with white candles lighted in their hands ; and 
in the landskip where the town of Mantua is painted 
is the water-lake, where a bridge is over the said 
water towards the town. In a little ebony wooden 

In the year 1494, when all the world was ringing 
with the discoveries of Columbus, Isabella paid a visit 
of state to Venice, where she was royally entertained ; 
but soon after her return she had the great sorrow of 
losing her mother, the Duchess Leonora, to whom she 
was passionately attached. It was an eventful year, as 
on the last day of December was born her eldest child, 
a girl who was called Leonora Violante Maria. " In 
her the name and blessed memory of my mother shall 


live again," she wrote to her aunt, the Queen of 

At this time she had the comforting society of her 
dear friend, Elisabetta Gonzaga, the Duchess of Urbino, 
whom she was always so delighted to meet, "that they 
might tell each other all that had happened since they 
parted." Soon after this the young mother went on a 
pilgrimage of thanksgiving to Loreto, which a recent 
French writer " has thus poetically described : 

"The sweet, tender Isabella d'Este set out thus to 
transport her soul across the plains of Umbria, towards 
the calm and glorious homes of peace and art, Loreto 
and Assisi. It was early spring, when the days were 
clear and sunny ; every morning after mass the little 
caravan resumed its march with its picturesque escort, 
piously, tranquilly, ideally. During the Easter festival 
it made a halt with the Duke and Duchess of Urbino 
in the delightful palace of Gubbio, smiling down from 
amongst its gardens and fountains. 

"The woman who has been able to live these hours 
of pure enthusiasm is conscious of accomplishing a 
large part of her dream. She is within sight of recon- 
ciling two opposite forces, the forces of Nature and 
the forces of the human heart. . . ." 

Isabella had inherited from her father an absorbing 
love for travel and for art, and she had ample oppor- 
tunity of gratifying both these tastes. She went to 
Ferrara, to Milan, where her brother-in-law Lodovico 
il Moro had recently become Duke, and everywhere 
was the centre of princely entertainments. Her little 
daughter was left meantime in the care of an accom- 
plished governess, Violante de' Preti. 
* R. de Maulde la Clavtere. 


In the year 1495 her husband was appointed captain 
of the armies of the League which had been formed 
against the French king, who had already conquered 
Naples. Francesco was covered with honour by his 
success at the battle of Fornova^and as a memorial of 
this event he was painted by Mantegna, kneeling in his 
armour before the Virgin, in the famous " Madonna 
della Vittoria," which was carried away from its 
forsaken shrine and now hangs in the Louvre. Peace 
had been made, but was not of long duration, and the 
next year we see the curious spectacle of the two 
sisters-in-law, Isabella, and Chiara Duchess of Mont- 
pensier, together amongst their books and music at 
Mantua ; while their husbands fought in opposing 
camps, and good news to one would be disaster to 
the other. Such was the tangle of political interests 
and alliances in those days. 

In this brief space, it is impossible to follow the 
varied course of that terrible war which ravaged Italy 
for so many years, and brought ruin and exile to so 
many friends of the house of Este. But through all 
the desperate perils and ever-present anxiety, Isabella 
so wisely ruled in Mantua, so delicately threaded her 
way through the bewildering maze of intrigues, and 
always hastened so judiciously to welcome and flatter 
the winner of the hour, that she kept her husband's 
dominion intact. Sorrow she could not keep away, 
and many losses befell her at this time. 

Her sister Beatrice, the splendid young Duchess of 
Milan, died suddenly at the age of twenty-one, and her 
infant son was buried with her. She was taken from 
the evil to come, poor young princess, for not three 
years later, all the glories of her estate were at an end : 


the duchy was taken from her husband, whose fate was 
a French dungeon, and her young children were exiles. 
The same year Isabella had to mourn the loss of her 
young cousin, the gallant Ferrante of Naples, and she 
had the bitter disappointment of seeing her husband 
disgraced and dismissed from his post of Captain- 
General, on a suspicion of treason. 

Through all her troubles she never lost her eager 
interest in art, and the collection of beautiful things. 
She had friends in every city who kept her informed of 
every event of interest, such as the bringing out of 
notable books or fine editions, the works issued 
from great studios, excavations, sales of collections. 
Her treasures overflowed from her " studiolo," and 
she arranged or rebuilt an exquisite suite of rooms, the 
world- renowned Studio of the Grotta. As de Maulde 
tells us : "She cherished in undisturbed harmony the 
Sleeping Cupid of Michelangelo and a choice collec- 
tion of antique statues ; she covered her walls with the 
works of Mantegna, Costa, and Correggio ; Leonardo 
da Vinci and Titian were her portrait painters ; she 
herself painted her soul in two words : ' Neither by 
hope nor by fear.' As an ideal for life and an emblem 
for her house, she commissioned of the great idealist 
master, Perugino, a Combat between Love and Chastity, 
and wished to arrange its composition to the minutest 
details. . . ." 

Not until 1500, ten years after her marriage, was her 
first son born, to her great joy and pride, and hence- 
forth the little Federico is the centre of all her hopes 
and affections. With her usual diplomacy she chose 
the all-powerful Cassar Borgia as one of his sponsors, 
and she seems to have remained in high favour with 


him. Within two years after, she was selected to receive 
his sister, Lucrezia Borgia, when she came as a bride 
to Ferrara. It must be owned that this marriage of 
her brother Alfonso was extremely distasteful to her, 
but she made no sign, and acted her part to perfection. 
On this occasion her misgivings were not realised, for 
after her stormy past the Pope's daughter seems to 
have won respect and affection in her new position. 
She never forgot the gracious courtesy of her sister-in- 
law, and always looked up to her with admiration, as 
her letters bear witness. 

Untouched by a breath of scandal herself, Isabella 
seems to have had large claims upon her tolerance. 
Amongst the refugees whom she received with hospi- 
tality after the fall of Milan, were the two mistresses 
of Duke Lodovico, Cecilia Gallerani and Lucrezia 
Crivelli. Her own husband was by no means faultless, 
and seems to have shocked even the lax feeling of that 
age, by appearing at a tournament at Brescia with a 
certain Teodora, in splendid attire, when his relations 
with her were a matter of notoriety. There were 
troubles, too, in after years, with some of her maids-of- 
honour, but she always behaved with wise and kindly 

About this time we hear of a delightful visit to 
Venice, when Isabella and her friend the Duchess of 
Urbino travelled incognito, with only two ladies, in 
order to avoid the inevitable entertainments, and to 
enjoy themselves in their own way. With what longing 
they must have looked back upon that happy time, for 
only a few months later, the treacherous Caesar Borgia 
seized Urbino, drove the duke and his wife into exile, 
and, with characteristic promptness, carried off the art 

■ 63 


treasures of that magnificent palace, to the value of close 
upon half a million. 

The Marchesa of Mantua receives her friends, is 
deeply distressed at their misfortunes, but writes at 
once to secure an antique Venus and a Cupid, which 
she has long desired, from the spoils. One person's 
calamity is the opportunity of another. 

The death of the Pope soon after, put an end to the 
Borgia power, and it is a satisfaction to know that 
Guidobaldo and his wife returned in triumph to Urbino 
— but fsabella kept the Venus. 

In the year 1505 a second son was born to her, 
Ercole, the future Cardinal ; and her daughter Leonora 
was betrothed to Francesco, the nephew and heir of 
the Duke of Urbino. Her letters of this period are 
all very full of the wondertul sayings and doings of 
her son Federico, but she scarcely mentions his 
sisters. As we are specially interested in the women 
of the Renaissance, it may be interesting to mention 
that on the birth of Leonora her mother received a 
splendid cradle, but she never used it for her girls, 
and only the baby boy was considered worthy of it. 

When Federico was seven years old, she took him 
with her to Milan, there to meet as a matter of policy 
King Louis XII. of France, in the ducat palace where 
her sister had once reigned, and Lodovico, who was 
then a prisoner at Loches. A few years later a great 
misfortune awaited her. Her husband, who had taken 
an active part in the renewed wars, was made prisoner 
by the Venetians, with all the costly furnishing of his 
camp, his horses, and his fine suits of armour. It is 
curious to read how, in her despair, Isabella consulted 
priests, lawyers, and astrologers. The answer which 


she received with regard to the conjunction of the 
star of Jove and the dragon's head is extremely 
curious, as she is told to say her prayers at that exact 

But for thirteen long weary months poor Francesco 
was kept in the dreary prison at Venice, and when he 
was at length released, his precious son had to be 
sent as a hostage to Rome. Meantime his wife had 
governed Mantua with great ability, and used every 
effort by diplomacy and immense bribes to obtain 
the release of the Marquis. In order to gratify the 
Pope she hastened the marriage of her daughter, who 
was warmly welomed to Urbino, after the usual floods 
and narrow escapes on the journey ; for all these grand 
weddings seem to have taken place in the winter. 

After this, we hear a great deal in the letters about 
the boy Federico's life in Rome, where he appears to 
have become a great favourite with the masterful old 
Pope Julius II., that indomitable fighter whose life was 
one long battle. During three years this precocious 
child was the spoilt darling of the brilliant society 
which filled the halls of the Vatican, and much as his 
mother wrote about his studies, they seem to have 
been quite secondary to his amusements. Nothing 
was too costly or too sumptuous for him, and Isabella 
pawned her jewels to supply the needed outlay. He 
would ride by the Pope's side on State occasions, in 
a magnificent suit of white satin, brocaded with gold 
embroidered letters, wearing a sword and cuirass, with 
a velvet cap and sweeping feathers fastened by a 
diamond clasp. We can fancy him bowing with 
courtly grace to acknowledge the cheers of the 



On the death of his patron, the boy returned home 
to Mantua, and did not see the splendid festivities of 
the Coronation of the new Medici Pope, Leo X. 
Many changes occurred after this. Alfonso of Ferrara 
made his peace with Rome, and the young son of 
Beatrice d'Este, Maximilian Sforza, ruled at Milan in 
the palace of his father, to the great content of 
Isabella. But his triumph was of short duration, for 
in 1515 he was compelled to abdicate finally in favour 
of Francis I. 

She had much anxiety at this time about the health 
of her husband, who never recovered from hiscaptivity 
at Venice, and who seems to have been querulous and 
irritable, always ready to find fault with those around 
him. A Venetian ambassador, who paid him a visit, 
gives a very curious account of finding the invalid 
sitting in a splendid chamber, with a great fire burning 
on the hearth, surrounded by his pets. A number of 
hawks and falcons in leash were about the room, 
immense greyhounds lying at his feet, with his 
favourite dwarf in gold brocade, while the walls 
were hung with portraits of his horses and dogs. 
Nothing gave him so much pleasure as the loan of a 
new jester, or contriving some rough practical joke. 
But when death came not long after, he made a devout 
end, and by his special wish he was buried in the 
habit of a Franciscan, and laid to rest in the church of 
San Francesco. Letters of condolence came from all 
parts of the world, one of the most interesting being 
from Lucrezia Borgia, who herself only survived the 
Marquis of Mantua two months. 

His son Federico, who succeeded him, was just 

nineteen, and he must have made a handsome picture 



as, clothed in white, he rode out of the Castello I 
receive the sceptre at the gate of the cathedral. 

The next year, Federico was appointed Captain- 
General of the Church, a great honour, which gladdened 
the heart of his mother, although the condition attached 
to it by Pope Leo X. was that the exiled family from 
Urbino should leave Mantua, for again the tide of war 
had turned against the Gonzaga family, and Elisabetta, 
with her son Duke Francesco Maria and his wife, 
Isabella's daughter, had taken refuge in her palace. 
But before the end of that year, 1521, the Pope himself 
died, and all was changed. The exiles returned with 
great joy to Urbino, where their people welcomed 
them with the old enthusiasm. 

Meantime Isabella had her time fully occupied with 
affairs of State, where her counsel was needed more 
than ever, and in the ever-delightful task of arranging 
and decorating her suite of splendid new apartments in 
the Corte Vecchio, which was called her " Paradise" 
She took the same keen interest in collecting more 
antiques, statues, and bas-reliefs, and in the minutest 
details of plenishing and adornment. But ail this did 
not exhaust her marvellous energy, and her thoughts 
were much occupied with the future of her second son, 
Ercole, for whom she had chosen the Church as a pro- 
fession, and who at fifteen was already a bishop. But 
her ambition went far beyond this ; and the first 
step in his upward career would be an excellent 
education, so she decided to send him to Bologna, 
which had famous scholars, and where the university 
was in high repute. He had inherited his mother's 
love of learning and did well at Bologna, where he 
remained until the death of the great master, Messer 


Pietro Pomponazzi, when he continued his studies at 

As years went on, Isabella does not seem to have lost 
any of her keen interest and delight in travel. In 1523 
she paid another visit to Venice with her brother 
Alfonso, and her great friend and constant corre- 
spondent, Casliglione. As of old, she was never 
weary of visiting churches and picture galleries, 
meeting Titian and other artists and men of letters, 
not to mention making friends with the new Doge, 
whom she saw enthroned. Two years later she decided 
to go to Rome, that by her personal influence she 
might at length obtain the much-desired Cardinal's hat 
for her son Ercole. This was in February, and on the 
way she heard the news of that great victory of Pavia, 
where Francis I. was defeated and taken prisoner. At 
Rome she found Pope Clement VII. in terror of the 
Emperor, and only too glad to make close friends with 
the Court of Mantua. He even presented to Federico, 
Raphael's portrait of Leo X., and showed the greatest 
kindness to the Marchesa, who had established herself 
in the Colonna Palace on the Quirinal. As usual, she 
at once became the centre of a delightful literary 
coterie, she visited everything, and must have been 
perfectly happy in being at the very fountain-head of 
all discovery of antiques. 

It was while Isabella was in Rome, that she heard of 
the death of her dearest friend, Elisabetta, Duchess of 
Urbino, whose loss was one of the greatest sorrows 
of her life. 

Meanwhile, important events were happening in 

Italy, where, after the Treaty of Madrid, war broke 

out again with more violence than ever. But Isabella 



still remained in the splendid palace with its sunny 
gardens, following out all her wonted pursuits ; and 
she had been more than two years in Rome when 
suddenly the blow fell. Duke Charles of Bourbon 
with the Imperialist troops, encamped under the very 
walls one Sunday in May 1527 ; an attack was made, 
the leader was killed, but his wild and savage army 
stormed the walls, and the hapless city was given up to 
pillage and destruction during three awful days. The 
Pope and most of the cardinals fled to the Castel St. 
Angelo, and escaped only with their lives, for all the 
priceless treasures of the Vatican were ruthlessly sacked 
and carted away. Isabella d'Este herself was safe, for 
she had kinsmen and friends in the invading army, and 
amongst them her son Ferrante. The crowd of dis- 
tinguished people who found a refuge under her roof 
were compelled to pay a heavy ransom ; Gregorovius 
gives the number as 1200 ladies and 1000 citizens. But 
she must have had a fearful time during that week in 
the Palazzo Colonna, before she was able to escape 
with a strong guard to the galleys, which took her 
safely to Ostia. 

Leaving desolation and ruin behind her, the in- 
domitable lady had yet one satisfaction, she bore away 
with her the Cardinal's hat for her son Ercole, which 
the Pope, in his desperate need for money, had sold to 
her for 40,000 ducats, when Bourbon was already under 
the walls of Rome. 

The Marchesa found her beloved Mantua ravaged by 
famine and plague, which spread all over northern 
Italy. Again she pledged her jewels, and did all in 
her power to help the poor people, of whom we are 
told that nearly one-third fell victims to the pestilence. 


But she still found means to add to her treasure, although 
one galley laden with spoils was taken by pirates. 

"For all these little vexations, those were glorious 
days ! " exclaims de Maulde. " What a lucky windfall 
the sack of Rome was to collectors !" 

That was the true Renaissance spirit, and a while 
later we find Titian on a visit to Mantua, admiring the 
treasures of Isabella, and painting her famous portrait, 
in which she wears that wonderful turban-shaped cap 
which had been her favourite head-dress for twenty 
years. We next meet this indispensable lady at Ferrara, 
where once again it falls to her lot to receive and 
welcome a distinguished bride. It was a quarter of a 
century since the days of Lucrezta Borgia, and now 
the coming princess is Renee of France, daughter of 
Louis XII., and sister-in-law of King Francis I. Truly 
a great marriage for the son of the Duke of Ferrara. 

As usual there were splendid festivities, but the time 
was unfortunate, for Ferrara, too, had been ravaged by 
the plague, and the unlucky city was once more on the 
point of war. But the next year, when the victorious 
Emperor arranged to meet the Pope and to be crowned 
at Bologna with the iron crown of Lombardy, Isabella 
d'Este had so many interests at stake that, aware of her 
own personal influence, she felt it her duty to be present 
at this great meeting, and went thither in great state 
and splendour. She was justified by the event, for she 
was entirely successful, both in mediation for her 
brother and her nephew of Milan, and also in obtaining 
for her son great favour with the Emperor, and the 
coveted title of Duke of Mantua. 

Those three resplendent years which the young 

Federico spent at the -Papal Court seem to have 


weakened his moral fibre, for he had entered into rela- 
tions, unsanctioned by the Church, with one Isabella 
Boschetti, although he had been twice unwillingly 
betrothed. But now an opportunity presented itself 
for a splendid marriage with Margherita Paleologa, the 
heiress of Monferrato, and through his mother's suc- 
cessful diplomacy, all difficulties were overcome. With 
a stately escort of a thousand men, the Duke of Mantua 
rode to Casale, the ancient capital of Monferrato, and 
the wedding was celebrated with the usual pomp and 
magnificence. A few years later the bride came into her 
rich dowry, which was added to the duchy of Mantua, 
a princely inheritance for her little son born in 1533. 

Was ever woman so favoured by fortune as Madonna 
Isabella ? Every project of hers was crowned by 
success ; she had but to form a wish and straightway 
it was gratified. To the last she kept up her enthusiasm 
for all beautiful things, for travel, for art, for poetry. 
She spent much time in her exquiste villa at Porto, and 
was never weary of adding to the choice flowers and 
shrubs of the terraced gardens. Surrounded by her 
friends, with frequent visits from her children and her 
grandchildren, she lived gaily and happily to the end. 
She died on February 13, 1539, and the world was the 
poorer by her loss. 

We feel that for one who had laid up so much treasure 
here below, it must have been hard to lose it all — to 
die, and leave her earthly " Paradiso." But did some 
instinct tell her that she would bequeath an undying 
memory to the world of culture, that she would awaken 
the passionate envy of art-lovers yet unborn, and that 
she would go down to posterity as the most perfect 
flower of the Italian Renaissance ? 


We cannot turn away from the Lombard cities of the 
plain, without a few pages on the subject of Renee of 
France, who for the greater part of her life was Duchess 
of Ferrara. She was daughter of Louis XII. and Anne 
de Bretagne, and was brought up at the French Court 
with her cousin Margaret, who became Queen of 
Navarre, and distinguished as a Platonist and a 
poetess. Both the young girls seem to have been 
drawn towards the new spirit of religious thought 
which was spreading over Europe, but their feelings 
were somewhat vague and speculative at that time, 
and they had no idea of rebellion against the powers 
of the Koraan Church. 

After the successful campaign of the French army in 
Italy, the Duke of Ferrara renewed his old friendship 
with King Francis I., and asked the hand of his sister- 
in-law, Reri^e, for his eldest son Ercole. This would 
appear to us rather a descent for a daughter of France, 
who seems, indeed, to have held this view herself ; but, 
probably from reasons of policy, the marriage contract 
was signed, and on June 28, 1528, the wedding took 
place in Paris, at the Sainte Chapelle, with much 


We are not told the first impression which the princess 
made upon her bridegroom when she was presented to 
him, for she was very different in appearance from the 
beautiful women of his own family, being short and 
deformed, with a plain face and delicate health. Still 
it was a great match for him, and he could doubtless 
appreciate her intelligence and literary tastes. For 
the Court of his father at Ferrara, in which he had 
been brought up, was exceptionally gay and brilliant, 
Titian, Bellini, and other great painters were at his ser- 
vice to paint pictures for him or decorate his palace 
walls. Men of letters and poets were welcomed at his 
table, and the saying went that " Ferrara had as many 
poets as there were frogs in the country round." 
Most notable among them was Ariosto, whose "Or- 
lando Furioso" told with splendid satire the passing 
away of the Mediaeval Age, and the coming of the new 
vivid inquiring spirit of the Renaissance. It is pos- 
sible that the thought of this polished circle of 
art and literature may have had its attraction for 

When all the balls and hunting parties at St. Germain 
and Fontamebleau were over, the wedding party s 
out towards Italy in September. They proposed to 
travel by slow stages through Lyons, Turin, Parma, 
Reggio, and Modena, and did not expect to arrive at 
Ferrara before the middle of November. Great pre- 
parations were made to welcome the bridal pair, and 
the Duke of Ferrara, mindful of his sister's tact and 
kindness on the arrival of his own bride, Lucrezia 
Borgia, a quarter of a century before, begged Isabella 
of Mantua to help him in the reception. This was to 
take place at Modena, where the bride made her entry 


in great state, with much ringing of bells, and salvoes, 
and Bare of trumpets, and enthusiasm. But the young 
princess must have appreciated most of all, the gracious 
presence and earnest friendliness of the Marchesa. 
After a fortnight spent in festivities, the bride and 
bridegroom spent a night at the beautiful palace of 
the Belvedere, which Duke Alfonso had built. It was 
situated on an island in the river, and has been made 
famous by Ariosto in the " Orlando." It was a dream 
of beauty, with its stately terraces and exquisite gar- 
dens, its orange groves and fountains, and its chapel 
painted by Dossi. 

The next day they set sail in the great decorated 
bucentaur, and arrived at the river gate of Ferrara, 
where they were received by Ippolito, the Archbishop 
of Milan, Ercole's brother, the ambassadors, and all 
the clergy, and others who escorted them to the 
cathedral. The streets were hung with banners, and 
a large company of pages in black satin and pink, 
attended the cortege. Renee was carried in a crimson 
litter with a baldacchino of gold, and her ladies followed 
in chariots. The bride was presented with the keys of 
the city in a silver bowl, in the Piazza del Duomo, 
which was thronged with eager spectators, although 
the city had but recently been ravaged by the plague. 
On arriving at that huge fortress palace of Este, which 
stands four-square in the centre of Ferrara, Renee was 
led by the hand up the great marble staircase, in her 
gorgeous wedding dress of gold brocade and a priceless 
necklace of pearls, wearing a golden crown on her 
head. I n the tapestried hall she received costly 
wedding presents from the ambassadors, while the 
chief merchants of Ferrara prayed her acceptance of 


oxen, goats, fowls, cheeses, and other articles of food, 
which waited below in the vast courtyard. 

Poor princess 1 One wonders if in all her gorgeous 
array, she had misgivings as to the difference between 
herself and the Italian ladies, in their matchless charm 
and beauty. Did she remember hearing, as a child, 
that her wise mother, the Sovereign Lady of Brittany 
in her own right, had been dissuaded from paying a 
much-desired visit to Italy for this very reason ? Her 
husband, King Louis XII., had frankly warned her 
that the very sight of such magnificent princesses as 
Isabella d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia would "crush her 
to the ground ! " 

It is rather touching to hear that Anne, Queen of 
France, she who "was so glorious of soul," meekly 
expressed her willingness to wear only "black or tan 
cloth and no line robes," not to enter into rivalry with 
those ladies. In the end, however, the journey was 
given up, and she never saw Italy. 

Renee does not seem to have made a very favourable 
impression at the court of Duke Alfonso. Probably 
she was shy and awkward in the middle of all these 
strangers whose language she could not understand, 
and she clung to the company of her French attendants, 
more especially to that Madame de Soubise who caused 
so much trouble in after years. The only Italian she 
took into her service was her secretary, Bernardo Tasso, 
the father of the famous poet. 

More festivities followed, but in rather a half-hearted 
manner we gather, and the Marchesa of Mantua seems 
to have been very weary of them. There were quintain 
races, on which the court ladies and gentlemen looked 
down from the balconies, there was much dancing, and 


there were state representations of the comedie* of 
Ariosto and some French plays in honour of the 
bride. Of one great entertainment given to welcome 
her, such full details have come down to posterity, that 
for once it will be worth while giving them, to bring 
before us a banquet of the Renaissance. 

In the great hall painted by Titian, Bellini, and 
Dosso Dossi, a hundred illustrious guests sat round a 
splendid table, on which were rows of great figures, 
most ingeniously and artistically designed out of sugar 
and gilding, of the Olympian gods and goddesses. In 
the centre was a striking group of Hercules strangling 
the lion, in compliment to the name of the bridegroom. 
With the next course another composition was placed 
on the table, of Hercules grappling with the Hydra ; 
and again another appeared, of the taming of the 
Minotaur by the same hero. Meantime the table 
groaned with the weight of great silver dishes, piled 
up with all the dainties of the age. Amongst these we 
may notice fish of many kinds richly stuffed, peacocks 
roast whole with the tail outpread, roast meats and 
galantine, boiled capons with spices, small chickens 
garnished with sugar and rosewater, quails and wild 
fowl, caramels made of pine seeds, and every variety 
of tarts and pasties and sweetmeats. Wines of the 
rarest vintage filled great silver jars and flasks, and 
were constantly handed round. Each course was 
brought in headed by a band of musicians, playing 
the lyre, viol, and harp, and singing rondeaux and 
madrigals, while the organ softly accompanied them 
from afar. 

At the end of the banquet, the choicest and most 

costly perfumes were handed round, and a great golden 



pasty was placed on the table, full of exquisite jewels, 
for which the ladies drew lots. We do not wonder 
after all this, that wedding festivities often left a State 
impoverished for years 1 

It must have been unfortunate for Renee that, almost 
immediately after her marriage, the armies of France 
began to lose ground in Italy, and one defeat after 
another led up to the Treaty of Cambray, when it 
seemed that Ferrara would be sacrificed to the Pope's 
vengeance. But the Duke hastened to do homage to 
the victorious Emperor, who took a great fancy to his 
lively wit — escorted him with much ceremony through 
his dominions, induced his sister to act as mediator at 
Bologna with the Pope, and the peril was averted. 
Alfonso seems to have behaved kindly to his daughter- 
in-law even when the alliance with her family had lost 
all political value. He sympathised with her literary 
tastes, but we do not know how far he could enter into 
her love for philosophy, geometry, and astronomy. 
From various parts of Italy distinguished scholars 
gathered round her Court, where she seems to have 
presided over an academy, which met in her apart- 
ments. Amongst her friends were many of the new 
school of thought, and when the spirit of intolerance 
in France drove reformers from their native land some 
of them took refuge at Ferrara. Clement Marot, who 
has been called the first poet of modern France, was 
a guest of hers. He had written a nuptial hymn in 
honour of her, and he spoke of her as " Ce noble cceur 
de Renee de France." It was Marot who with the 
curious fantastic taste of the age, thus addressed the 
yet unborn child of the Duchess Renee*. "You will 
find a century in which you can quickly learn all that 

a child can understand. Come then boldly, and when 
you grow older, you will find something better stilt : 
you will find a war already begun — the war against 
ignorance and its insensate troops." He also addressed 
these lines to Marguerite of Navarre, with regard to 
Renee, Duchess of Ferrara : 

"Hat Marguerite, escoute la souffrance 
Du nolile cceur de Renee tic France ; 
Puis comme sceur plus fort que d'esperance 

Console — la. 
Tu sals comment hora son pays alia, 
Et que parents et amis laissa la, 
Mais tu ne sais quel traitemeut elle a 
En terre estrange. 

" Elle ne voit ceult a qui se veuil plaindre, 
Son ceil ray ant si loing ne peut attaindre; 
Et puis les moots pour ce bien lui cstaiadre 
Sont entre deux." 

Calvin himself remained with Renee for a time 
before he settled in Geneva, and he continued a 
friendly correspondence with her until his death. 

She seems to have spent much of her time in the 
country house of the Este princes, the Schifanoia or 
Sans Souci, which had been decorated by Cosimo Tura 
with celebrated pictures of pastoral and hunting scenes. 
She had a gay and brilliant life now that Ferrara was 
once more in peace and prosperity. We hear of many 
entertainments, and a description of the costumes of the 
ladies from the novelist StabelHno. On one occasion 
Renee wore a blue satin gown with a high French 
collar, with sleeves slashed to show a white chemisette, 
a little black velvet cap with a white feather on her head, 
and a gold fillet. H er ladies were dressed, some in black 


satin, others in crimson, with the same velvet caps. 
There appears to have been great interest shown as to 
whether Madame de Soubise would persuade her to wear 
the French mode instead of the Italian. This lady was 
a very bad adviser, and, after being the cause of muc>> 
scandal, was ultimately sent back to France in disgrace. 

The first child of the young Duchess was a daughter, 
whom she called Anna, after her own mother, Anne de 
Bretagne, and this child seems to have been a special 
favourite with Isabella d'Este, whom she greatly re- 
sembled in appearance and character. There was an early 
portrait of the Marchesa, which she lent her nephew 
to be copied, as it proved to be so strikingly like his 
little girl, who was destined in after years to marry 
Duke Francis of Guise, the most famous of his race. 
In November 1533 there were great rejoicings at the 
birth of a son, who was christened Alfonso, after his 
grandfather, and had the Pope Clement VII. for his 
sponsor. Both of these old enemies died the following 
year, when Ercole and his wife became the reigning 
Duke and Duchess. 

Isabella d'Este seems to have kept up her connection 
with Ferrara, for we hear of her going there to spend 
the carnival two years later, to cheer the spirits of 
Renee, who was ill after the birth of her daughter 
Lucrezia. The Marchesa writes to tell her son about 
her visit : " To-day I arrived here half an hour after 
nightfall, and was received by the Duke and many 
nobles and ladies on the river bank. They escorted 
me with lighted torches to my lodgings. . . , Soon 
after I visited the Duchess, who has had a touch of 
fever, but not serious, and then went in 
see the dancing begin." 



Later she writes that the Duke Ercole has given a 
great supper, " which was followed by a concert of 
excellent and varied music, and afterwards by dancing 
till bedtime." Another very curious letter of Isabella's 
is preserved, written to a court lady with regard to her 
famous dwarfs, whose suite of apartments may still be 
seen at Mantua : 

" It was a promise of mine to give Madame Renee 
the first girl born to my dwarfs. The 'puttina' has 
now reached the age of two, and doubtless will con- 
tinue to be a dwarf, though she hardly promises to 
be so small as my Delia. She can now walk alone 
without a guide, if the Duchess desires to have 
■/ Vittoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescara, was drawn 
towards Renee through similarity of tastes, and paid 
her frequent visits at Ferrara. She was godmother to 
her youngest daughter, Leonora, made immortal by 
the love of Tasso. On this occasion Vittoria was 
anxious to enlist her friend's interest in that wonderful 
man, about whom opinions have differed so much, 
V Fra Bernardino Ochino. He was a monk, and for three 
years general of the Capuchins, "fiery, proud, austere, 
with large bloodless face and long, shaggy white beard." 
His sermons had created quite an enthusiasm in Rome, 
where most of the Sacred College had flocked to hear 
him. But he was a man of rare mental independence, 
and his writings soon verged towards heresy, notably 
the "Dialogi." 

We have another glimpse of the young Duchess in 

those days, or rather of her little six-year-old daughter, 

on the occasion of more carnival fetes. " Signora 

Anna played some pieces most excellently on the 



gravicembalo." Then the dwarfs, Morgetitino and Delia, 
jumped and danced together, and Signora Anna joined 
them and danced several dances " alia gagliarda," which 
gave the Marchesa di Pescara and the Duke and every 
one the greatest pleasure. We were convinced that if 
the goddess Nature had danced before us she could not 
have danced in more perfect time or more exquisite 

In 1540, when Anna d'Este was only nine years old, 
Calcagnini thus wrote to her in Latin : " 1 have read 
the fables you have translated from the Tuscan into 
Latin, in an elegant and ornate style, as becomes a 
royal hand. On finishing the perusal 1 had only to 
regret that it was so soon ended. ... I trust that 
these essays may be the seed of future compositions 
which will reflect honour on your name. 1 have already 
the pleasure of applauding these first steps on the path 
to fame." 

Renee took the greatest interest in the education of 
her children, and when Anna was ten years old she 
selected as her companion and teacher, Olympia Mor ata, 
a most accomplished girl, only two years older than 
her pupil. She was the daughter of a professor in the 
university, Pelligrino Morata, and she had been taught 
all the learning of that day, was well versed in Greek 
and Latin literature, and was engaged in the study of 
rhetoric or public speaking. What progress Signora 
Anna made in this we do not know, but we hear that 
Olympia, at the age of fourteen, wrote Latin letters 
and dialogues in Greek and Latin in the style of Plato 
and Cicero, and that when she was scarcely sixteen she 
was asked to give lectures in the University of Ferrara 
on the philosophical problems of the " Paradoxes " of 


Cicero. She was listened to with respect and critical ad- 
miration ; but before long religious questions became 
of serious importance. Hitherto the spirit of Italian 
culture had been full of tolerance, but now the gulf 
between the old opinions and the new had grown 
wider, the Renaissance Popes were compelled to take 
strong measures, and the Inquisition set out in earnest 
to purge the land of heresy. France had become more 
Catholic under Henri II., who looked with suspicion 
on the freedom of thought encouraged by his aunt 
Renee. He joined with the Pope in requesting the 
Duke of Ferrara to put an end to heresy at his Court. 
Ercole had no wish to make political enemies, so he 
dismissed Olympia from the education of his children, 
drove nway all Lutherans from the city, and insisted 
upon the outward orthodoxy of his wife. 

It will be interesting to make a slight digression in 
order to see what became of this learned lady. Not 
yet twenty on her father's death, she was the only 
support of a delicate mother, three sisters, and a 
brother, all younger than herself. At this time she 
writes : 

" I do not regret the fugitive pleasures which I have 
lost. God has kindled in me a desire to dwell in that 
heavenly home in which it is more pleasant to abide 
for one day, than a thousand years in the courts of 
princes." Two years later, Olympia married a young 
German doctor who was studying medicine at the 
university, and they found it necessary to leave 
Ferrara and make a home in Germany. She was 
devoted to her husband, but her short life was full of 
anxiety and trouble, and she died at Heidelburg at 
the age of twenty-nine. Her husband gives such a 


touching description of her end that it is worthy of 

" When she was almost dying, waking a little out of 
sleep, I saw her look pleased and smile softly. I went 
nearer and asked her why she smiled so sweetly. ' I 
saw just now,' she said, 'a quiet place filled with the 
fairest and clearest light.' When she could speak no 
more through weakness. ' Courage,' 1 said, * dear wife ; 
in that fair light you will dwell.' Again she smiled 
and nodded her head. A little while afterwards she 
said, ' I am quite happy.' When next she spoke her 
eyes were already dim, ' I can scarcely see you any 
longer,' she said, 'but everything seems to me full of 
the most beautiful flowers.' They were her last words. 
Soon after, as if overcome by sweet sleep, she breathed 
forth her soul." 

To return to Ferrara, Olympia must long have b< 
a tender memory and a surviving influence with her 
pupils. We hear of them, when still under fifteen, as 
being sufficiently advanced to act a comedy of Terence 
before Pope Paul III., when he paid a visit to their 
father. The great Venetian scholar, Pietro Bembo, 
must often have spoken to them of his old friend, 
Olympia; he who said, "A little girl should learn 
Latin ; it gives a finishing touch to her charm." 

It is a very remarkable episode in the history of 
Ferrara that a reigning duchess should be an enthusi- 
astic lover of the Reformation — that religious revolution 
which was to spread over the world, and deliver it from 
a Church of which the Borgia, the Kovere, and the 
Medici had been chief. Yet her courage was fatal to 
the happiness of the poor lady herself. Her husband 
placed her in a convent in the year 1554, but the noble 



princess remained absolutely faithful to her religious 
faith. When the Inquisition had succeeded in stifling 
the reforming spirit in Ferrara, and her son Alfonso 
was the reigning duke, she went baqt to Fxaoce^where 
she lived at the Castle of Montarges, surrounded by her 
Huguenot friends, until her death in 1575. 




• , " 



Birth of Caterina Comoro, 

i 4 6B. 

Betrothal of Caterina Cornaro to Giacomo, King of 



Marriage of Caterina and Giacomo. 


Birth of a son to the Queen of Cyprus. He died the 

next year. 


Turks ravaged Friuli ; defeated Venice. 


Venice made peace with the Ottomans, after fifteen 

years war. 


SixtusIV. made a league with Venice to despoil House 

of Este. The Pope made peace with Este. and ex- 

communicated Venice. Venice continued the war 

till the Treaty of Bagnolo secured her much Este 


i 4 8g. 

Caterina resigns the crown of Cyprus to the Republic. 


League of Cambray. The Pope, Emperor, and Kings 

of France and Spain were against Venice, who was 

defeated at Aignadello. Venice made peace with 

the Pope and Spain, and defeated the Emperor 

Maximilian at Padua. 


Death of Caterina Cornaro, late Queen of Cyprus. 


Birth of Bianca Capet In. 


Flight of Bianca Capello from Venice, Her marriage 

to Pietro Bonaventuri. 


Marriage of Francesco, son of Cosimo, Grand Dulce of 

Tuscany, to Giovanna of Austria, sister of Maxi- 

milian II. 


Death of the Grand Duke Cosimo. Francesco suc- 

ceeds him. 


Murder of Isabella dei Medici (Orsini). 


Birth of Filippo, son of Giovanna of Austria. 


Death of the Grand Ducbess Giovanna. 


Marriage of the Grand Duke Francesco with Bianca 



Death of Filippo, sou of the Grand Duke. 


Death of the Grand Duke Francesco and bis wife. 

Bianca Capello, at Poggio a Cajano. 


The story of the Venetian maiden, suddenly called 
from her convent school to become the Queen of 
Cyprus, then returning to her peaceful home until 
such time as she sailed forth in stately pomp to her 
royal husband and her kingdom, is a picture so 
brightly vivid that it has all the charm of a fairy tale, 
and we follow, with breathless interest, the stirring 
adventures which befell her. 

A few words on the history of Cyprus will be neces 
sary to explain its position in the middle of the four- 
teenth century. During three hundred years it had 
been in the peaceable possession of the descendants of 
Guy de Lusignan, the expelled King of Jerusalem, to 
whom our Richard I. had given it after the Third 
Crusade. He had become King of Jerusalem by 
marriage with Sibylle, the widowed daughter of 
Baldwin IV, Giovanni III. of Lusignan died in 1458, 
leaving the kingdom of Cyprus to Carlotta, his only 
legitimate child, who married her cousin Louis, Count 
of Geneva, second son of the Duke of Savoy and Anna 
of Cyprus. She was solemnly crowned at Lefkosia or 
Nicosia in 1460, but before many months her half- 
brother, Giacomo, natural son of the late king, had 


defeated and deposed her, with the aid of the Sultan of 
Egypt and his Mamelukes. 

Having taken possession of the island, and caused 
himself to be crowned, Giacomo II. felt the import- 
ance of making a durable alliance with his powerful 
neighbours the Venetians, and he therefore sent a 
formal embassy to the Doge and Signoria, asking them 
to bestow upon him a Venetian maiden of good birth 
as his bride. We may imagine the flutter in the dove- 
cotes of the city, and the careful consideration needed 
before the grave and reverend statesmen could make a 
suitable selection. At length the choice fell upon 
Caterina, the young daughter of the great Venetian 
merchant, Marco Cornaro, who, with two other patri- 
cian houses, happened to hold most of the island of 
Cyprus in mortgage. 

The little girl, who had never been heard of before 
outside her own family, was born on Santa Caterina's 
day, 1454, and received the name of her patron saint. 
Her father must have been of noble birth, for in the 
archives of the city he is called Kavalier Marco Cornaro, 
and the name of his wife was Fiorenza Crispo. Their 
eldest daughter Violante married Marco Dandolo, and 
Caterina was sent at ten years old to be educated at the 
convent of San Benedetto at Padua. When the deci- 
sion of the Signoria was made known, she suddenly 
became a person of much importance, and returned 
home at once to prepare for the great event. The 
chronicles of the day give a very full account of the 
espousals, which were celebrated with splendid pomp. 
Her father's home was at San Polo, in the centre of 
Venice, not far from the Frari, and here, on July 30, 
1468, there came a stately company of forty patrician 


matrons, in the richest velvets and brocades, to fetch 
the destined bride, and accompany her in the Doge's 
own barge all down the gaily decorated Grand Canal, 
amid the eager curiosity of the pleasure-loving people, 
to the Ducal Palace. Here another group of noble 
Venetian ladies awaited her at the foot of the great 
staircase and conducted her into the Council Chamber. 
An eye-witness declares that "he had never seen so 
beautiful a child, and described her as being of middle 
height, though she looked tall in the magnificent robes 
covered with jewels, which set off her full round 
figure. She had soft black eyes, an open brow, a 
milky complexion, and the rich golden hair so much 
esteemed in Venice. 

There was a distinguished assembly present to witness 
the marriage ceremony, and the Doge Christoforo Moro 
presented a consecrated ring to the Cyprian ambassa- 
dor, who placed it on Caterina's finger, "in the name 
of Jacopo II. di Lusignano, re di Cipro, d'Armema, e di 
Gerusalemme." Her dowry was fixed at the princely 
sum of 100,000 ducats, and it was decided by the 
Republic that a picture of the bride should be painted 
and sent to the King of Cyprus. 

It must have been indeed an eventful day for this 
maiden of fourteen, to be taken from the quiet life at 
San Benedetto, to change her plain black dress for 
brocades and costly jewels, and to find herself the 
chief actress in a dramatic ceremony of such grandeur 
and importance. A simple little girl in the morning, 
she returns home at night a queen, at least in name. 
When she was back at home with her mother in that 
sunny Campo San Polo, while the husband she had 
never seen was far off fighting the Turks, Caterina 


must have been tempted to think at times that nothing 
had really changed, and that it was all a dream of the 

The young bride had to wait four years before any- 
thing happened, and meantime Giacomo, under the 
influence of Ferdinand of Naples, was very much dis- 
posed to break off the alliance with Venice, and seek a 
wife elsewhere. However, after much negotiation, and 
no doubt strong language from the Republic, the King 
of Cyprus came to a better mind, and the day was 
fixed for the departure of Caterina. 

Nothing was wanting in splendour for ibis festal 
voyage of thirteen hundred miles, and immense pre- 
parations had been made, for the bride took with her 
several members of her family, and a stately suite of 
ladies in waiting, attendants, and servants. Four mag- 
nificent Venetian galleys had been specially fitted up 
for her use, and on a sunny morning in late summer 
of the year 1472 she set forth on that triumphal expe- 
dition. We can trace her route to-day, on that 
changeless highway of the ocean, through many 
leagues of rippling waves, down the whole length of 
the Adriatic, past the ancient towered cities on the 
coast of Romagna and the Abruzzi, with many a rest 
and break on the way, through the Straits of Otranto, 
into the blue waters of the Mediterranean, skirting 
round the storied isles of Greece ; onwards, ever on- 
wards, driven hither and thither by the caprice of the 
wind, until at length, after two months' voyage, the 
great ships put in at Beyrout on the coast of Phoe- 
nicia. Beyond them rose those fabled peaks of Asia 
Minor, where Apollo and Pan made the flute discourse 
sweet music in the Phrygian highlands, while away to 


the north-west, beyond the snows of Lebanon, the 
wild swans of Ovid died in music, amid the reedy 
shallows of the Maeander. But at such a moment of 
eager expectation, dreams of the past would be 
swallowed up in the living present, for the young 
Queen of Cyprus was about to make her royal entry 
into her kingdom. Again she embarked, this time for 
the short voyage across to the port of Larnaca, and 
before her, like an island of enchantment, her future 
domain lay stretched on the horizon, a bank of misty 
blue, with gleams of light and stains of purple that 
told of headland and cliff, shining here and there like 
crags of amethyst. On the near shore, at the very edge 
of the water, minaret and campanile seemed to rise 
glimmering above the white dwellings, encircled to the 
east by an emerald grove of palm trees. Here beyond 
the open roadstead an escort awaited the travellers, 
with litters and mules for riding, and beasts of burden 
to carry all the magnificent trousseau and furnishing of 
the Venetian bride. It was still a journey of many 
hours, through a wild bare country, with undulating 
ridges and rocky boulders and broad marshy levels, 
bounded in the distance by purple mountains, until at 
length the capital, Nicosia, rose before them, that city 
of the crusaders, with its palaces, and mediaeval 
churches, and minarets and temples of the old Greeks. 
Here with great solemnity Caterina made her entrance, 
splendidly dressed, with King Giacomo riding by her 
side, until the gay procession streamed into the palace 
of the Lusignan kings. 

If there had been misgivings as to the warmth of her 

reception, they melted away at once, for her dazzling 

beauty triumphed over all. Her new life spread out 



before her as an endless vista of festal scenes and gay 
entertainments, in that delicious balmy climate, where 
even winter had no terrors. 

It must have been like a vision of dreamland, that 
grand old castle with its sumptuous interior, of oriental 
colour and design, in the midst of its spice gardens 
and tropical flowers, and shady groves of palms and 
mulberry trees. All around were white Corinthian 
porticoes side by side with Greek basilicas and Gothic 
churches ; while the streets were the scene of splendid 
pageants, and the markets full of all that wealth and 
luxury could desire. Caterinamust have loved to hear 
the story and tradition of her classic isle ; of its con- 
nection with ancient Egypt and of Greece ; with Solo- 
mon and Haroun-al-Raschid ; with Crusaders and 
Knights Templars ; of the Byzantine Dukes of Cyprus 
who had built that very palace, and the love story of her 
husband's ancestor, Guy de Lusignan and the Princess 
Sibylle, Could she ever weary of hearing how the 
chivalry of the West inherited the romance of the 

Then how full of charm and contrast to the conv< 
bred girl — whose out-door life was once limited to 
demure walk in the shady gardens of the Monasterio 
at Padua — must it have been to set forth with a gallant 
cavalcade, hawking or hunting in the broad plains 
around. Or at times, with greater daring, she may 
have gone farther afield, when for her the " Queen's 
Lodging" was added to the Cnstle of St. Hilarion, on 
that rude mountain height where Richard Cceur-de- 
Lion once planted his standard. From thence she 
could hunt in the great forests beyond, still haunted by 
the legend of Adonis, and where still roamed the wild 


to 3 


boars whose forerunner had slain the peerless youth. 
In verse and song, the fair young Queen of Cyprus had 
herself been likened to that Venus who rose from 
yonder sapphire waves, and chose for her ancient home 
the Mount Olympus of that sea-girt isle. 

But those happy days were all too brief, and within 
a year her joy and triumph were changed to mourning. 
Her husband, Giacomo, had gone out on a hunting 
expedition, in the neighbourhood of Famagusta, and 
had been killed, and brought home to her dead. It 
must have been a fearful shock ; but Caterina kept up 
her courage, and took all needful steps to protect the 
throne, for the sake of her unborn child, A Council 
of Regency was appointed, for the island became at 
once in a state of unrest, and the news was sent to 
Venice, where steps were immediately taken for the 
protection of the queen, troops being sent to fortify 
and garrison the important fortresses of the island. 

As for poor Caterina herself, all her thoughts and 
hopes were concentrated on the passionate desire that 
her child might be a son, to inherit his father's kingdom. 
She made pilgrimages and prayers to Saint Irene, and 
to St. Epiphanius, the good Bishop of Salamina, who 
had performed many miracles ; he was so pious and 
good 1 She knew that there was a deadly conspiracy 
against her, that the partisans of Carlotta of Savoy 
were preparing a great effort ; but what did it matter ? 
If only an heir were born to her, God would protect 
the right. 

As her biographer says, " stava apicato a un chavelo," 
her throne was on a volcano, and though many loved 
her, yet they were the gentle timid ones who could not 
protect her. One terrible day, the conspirators burst 

' the 


into the palace, forced their way to her presence, and 
her physician and one of her servants were murdered 
before her eyes. Her uncle, Andrea Cornaro, and a 
cousin who were hastening to her aid, were also put 
to death, and she herself had a narrow escape. But 
help was at hand, the expedition from Venice arrived, 
under the captain-general, Pietro Mocenigo ; he put 
down the insurrection in the city, and hung the ring- 
leaders, who were ardent supporters of the Princess 
Carlotta of Savoy, and had hoped to place her on 1 

On August 28, 1473, "al quatro hore de notte," the 
Queen of Cyprus gave birth to a son, born a king, and 
the happy mother forgot all her troubles in supreme 
content at the realisation of her fondest wishes. He 
was baptized on September 26, in the presence of 
General Mocenigo, the Venetian ambassador, and many 
other noble personages, and received the name of 
Giacomo III. 

The Venetian Republic, with their usual astuteness, 
had sent with their army, two trusty Councillors and 
a Civil Commissioner to watch events, and obtain a 
firm grasp of the affairs of Cyprus. Caterina was too 
much absorbed in the care of her child to give her 
whole care to the government, and was glad of their 
help. But another sorrow was in store for her; her 
baby was scarcely a year old when he was taken from 
her by some sudden childish complaint, and she was 
left desolate indeed. The watchful Senators of Venice 
sent her father, Marco Cornaro, with his wife, Fiorenza, 
to comfort their bereaved daughter, and, at the same 
time they gave orders that the mother, sister and illegi- 
timate son of Giacomo should be forthwith sent to 


Venice. Marco Cornaro was also specially commis- 
sioned to keep the allegiance of the Cypriotes, and 
to lake heed that there would be no change in the 
government. About this time a fresh conspiracy was 
entered into by the partisans of Carlotta of Savoy, and 
Ferdinand, King of Naples, sent a certain Rizzo di 
Mario to carry on the plot at Alexandria. But the 
Venetian government had received a warning, and 
they secured the person of Rizzo and carried him to 
Venice, where the Ten went through the form of a 
trial and condemned him to death. At this point, 
the Sultan, who had been friendly with the prisoner 
when he had gone to his Court as Ambassador, made a 
strong appeal in his favour, even going so far as to 
forbid the Republic to carry out the sentence. How- 
ever, the unfortunate Rizzo di Mario was strangled in 
prison, and the Sultan was informed that he had taken 
poison in despair. 

Meantime, Caterina continued to be the nominal 
mistress of Cyprus, and as her real power diminished, 
she seems to have gained ground in the sympathy of 
her people. As she was denied the joys and duties of 
a mother, her biographer tells us, she grew to care 
more and more for pomp andceremony and the outward 
show of sovereignty. " She recalled to the Cypriotes 
those memories of independence which flattered their 
pride." And all the time, by means of the two 
Councillors and the Civil Commissioner, the Republic 
of Venice was slowly and surely gaining dominion of 
the whole island. 

As time passed on, they gradually assumed absolute 

power, and the position became intolerable for the 

unfortunate queen. She wrote lamentable letters to 


CATERINA cornaro 

the Doge of Venice, complaining of the insulting con- 
duct and actual persecution of these envoys, both to 
her father and herself. And others in authority took 
their cue from them, for even the Archbishop, " with- 
out respect or reverence, would enter her chamber 
when he would," and she was constantly molested by 
brawls in her own palace. Years passed in this way, 
for with the achievement of their purpose certain in 
the end, the Senators of the Republic could afford to 
wait. At length, when the time was ripe for action, 
they won over to their side her brother Giorgio Cornaro, 
and sent him to persuade Caterina to abdicate in their 
favour. With him they also despatched General Diedo, 
with instructions that, " by wise and circumspect, 
cautious and secure means, they should get the queen 
on board a galley and bring her here to us at Venice." 

This elaborate diplomacy was successful, and the 
unhappy lady yielded at length to persuasion and 
threats. Her brother had arrived on his mission in 
October 1488, but it was not until February 26, 1489, 
that the banner of St. Mark's floated over the castles 
of Cyprus. 

An ambassador was at once sent to the Sultan of 
Egypt to announce that the event had taken place 
" with the full and free determination of our most 
serene and beloved daughter Caterina Cornaro," and 
also to ask for his friendly alliance. There is an Italian 
proverb, "A nemico che fugge,ponti d'oro," and so it 
was in this case. Magnificent fetes and ceremonies 
were arranged in honour of the fallen queen, in which 
as much as 2000 ducats were freely spent. All the 
population of Nicosia found their way down to the 
shore to witness the departure of Caterina, which was 


of the most triumphal description. The Doge had 
sent his own state " Bucentaur," on which he was wont 
on Ascension Day to perform the solemn ceremony of 
wedding the sea. In this splendid wooden ship, with 
oars for many rowers, gorgeous with gilding and in- 
taglio, and costly damask hangings, the poor deposed 
queen set forth on her homeward journey. With 
what other hopes had she passed that way more than 
sixteen years before, in her sumptuous youth and the 
gay prime of her beauty, now to return to the home 
of her childhood, widowed, and robbed of all save the 
glare of outward show ; like the Dead Sea fruit, beauti- 
ful without, but dust and ashes within ! The white 
moaning sea-birds which hovered around her in the 
salt sea breeze, must have been more in sympathy with 
her mood than the festive music on board the splendid 
" Bucentaur." 

Once more she beheld that " golden city, paved with 
emerald," whose every pinnacle and turret gleamed 
above the face of the waters as the sun declined be- 
hind the great Campanile. The most magnificent re- 
ception awaited her ; the " Bucentaur " was followed 
through the blue waters of the lagoon by an innumer- 
able company of boats and gondolas in festive array, 
and decorated galleys and barques came to meet her 
with all the great nobles of the city, and their ladies in 
gorgeous attire. She was welcomed with the blowing 
of trumpets, the firing of guns, and thundering salvoes 
of artillery. All the palaces were richly adorned, and 
from each carved balcony, decked with Howers and 
hung with gay-coloured streamers, the fair Venetian 
ladies looked down with smiles and "vivas" as she 
passed onwards to the palace of the Duke of Ferrara, 


which had been made ready for her reception. The 
next scene in the drama is the solemn procession to 
the Piazza of San Marco, when Caterina, clothed in 
sumptuous black garments, is conducted in state \ 
in the great Byzantine temple, and there she " fece i 
libero dono alia Republics del regno de Cipro," 

So far as the Republic of Venice was concerned, this 
was the end of the story, but the deposed queen had 
to be comforted with many gifts and much gold. A 
splendid yearly allowance was voted for her mainte- 
nance, and she was presented with "la terra e il 
Castello di Asolo, vago e piacevole castello posti 
negli estremi gioghi delle nostre Alpi, sovra il Trevi- 
giano. . . ." 

Caterina took possession of her new domain on 
Sunday, October u, and this again was made an occa- 
sion of great pomp. The chronicler tells us that she 
advanced under a golden umbrella carried by four 
nobles, amid the acclamation of the people, who con- 
ducted her to the great church, where a solemn mass 
was celebrated, and the Te Deum sung in token of 
thanksgiving. Then the procession proceeded through 
the picturesque mediaeval town to the castle on the 
hill, which had been sumptuously decorated for the 
queen's reception. Nothing was wanting ; she was 
even consoled with a formal oration : 

" O felice patrta Asolani, o fortunata Grege, posci- 
ache sarai retta e governata da cosi giusta e felice 
Paestorella ; o awenturata nave, posciache sarai 
guidata da si esperta nochiera. . . ." 

It is interesting to notice how the Senators of Venice 
continue to exercise their grandmotherly care for this 
"most serene and beloved daughter," for they gravely 


put it on record that they chose Asolo for her abode ; 
"afinche ella potesse godere del possesso, della bellezze 
e della salubrita di quel luogo." Beautiful " sparkling " 
Asolo ; it was indeed a princely retreat. From the 
broad terrace of her stately castle the queen could see 
outspread before her the sunny plains of the Brenta 
and the Piave, girdled round by the encircling Alps 
and the blue Euganean hills. On a summer eve she 
could trace these classic rivers from the distant point 
where they rise amid the Alpine valleys, and wind their 
way like silver threads, with many a slow fantastic 
curve, across the vivid green of the wide pastoral plain, 
till they are lost to sight in the misty distance of the far 
off purple lagunes. 

In this earthly paradise, Caterina was surrounded by 
a court of four thousand persons, and arranged her life 
in a routine of luxurious splendour. She had her 
rector from Venice, Nicolo Pruli, a capellano she had 
brought with her from Cyprus, a German doctor, at 
least one pet dwarf, her secretary, of whom we are told 
that he was an excellent poet and by no means a 
mediocre philosopher ; and also many ladies in waiting 
and attendant pages. It is of one of these that 
Browning writes : 

" Give her but a least excuse to love me ! 
When — w he r e — 

How— can this arm establish her above rae, 
If fortune fixed her as my lady there, 
There already, to eternally reprove me ? 

(' Hist t ' said Kate the Queen ; 
But 'Oh I ' cried the maiden, binding her tresses,) 

' 'Tis only a page that carols unseen, 
Crumbling your hounds their messes ! ' 


Is she wronged ?— To the rescue of her honour, 

My heart 1 
Is she poor ?— What costs it to be called a donor ? 
Merely an earth to cleave, a sea to part. 
But that fortune should have thrust all this upon her ! 

(' Nay, list ! ' — bade Kate the Queen ; 
And still cried the maiden, binding her tresses, 

' Tin only a page (hat carols unseen, 
Fitting your hawks their jesses ! ') " 

We cannot tell whether the exiled Queen of Cyprus 
was really satisfied with her mimic Court, her empty 
title ; or whether, like a wise woman, she made the 
best of that which was within her reach, and ceased to 
sigh for the unattainable. But this we know, that 
under her genial rule, Asolo became a very citadel of 
pleasure, where one entertainment succeeded another, 
and life became one round of changing delights. 
There were gorgeous tournaments and tilting matches, 
and pastoral dances and moonlight festivals ; there 
were gay hawking and hunting parties in which the 
Lady of Asolo was never weary. She had an ui 
querable desire for joy and happiness, a very passion 
for magnificence, which she may perhaps have inherited 
from her grandmother, an imperial princess of the 
East. From all parts of Europe, visitors were attracted 
to this ideal spot, and were welcomed with royal 

We hear of the ambassador of Cyprus coming to 
present her an offering of rare sweetmeats, with many 
nobles in his train and thirty pages in white and gold. 
Theodoro of Aragon, Pandolfo Malatesta, Hieronimo 
Leone, with a retinue of two hundred persons, Isabella 
d'Este, the Duchess of Urbino, and Beatrice Duchess 
of Milan, were amongst her guests. She was the 


centre of an intellectual coterie, of which her kinsman, 
Pietro Bembo, the historian of Venice, afterwards 
made cardinal, was one of the most distinguished. 
His philosophical dialogues on the nature of love were 
named by him the " Asolani," in compliment to this 
society, and in them he describes Caterina's three 
Courts — of the Muses, of Love, and of magnificent and 
royal dignity. 

Besides all this, the Lady of Asolo had a great love 
for gardening, and her summer resort on the plain was 
full of the rarest shrubs and flowers from Eastern lands, 
to which she was never weary of adding fresh treasures, 
as gifts came to her from her many friends. In the 
midst of her amusements she did not neglect more 
serious duties, and governed her limited domain wisely 
and well ; dispensing even justice in her courts of law, 
founding a hospital and other charitable institutions, 
amongst them a kind of " mont de piet6" to help the 
poor in time of need. Like a true Lady Bountiful, in 
years of distress, she was most generous in distributing 
corn to all her subjects, and by her courtesy and kind- 
ness she won the affection of her people. Fra Bona- 
ventura dei Minori, her confessor, speaks in high terms 
of her piety and good works. He tells us that she 
loved to read the life of Saint Caterina, the miracles of 
St. Giralomo, the legends of the Virgins and the lives 
of the Fathers, In the year 1506 she commissioned 
the artist Lorenzo Lotti to paint a great altar-piece for 
the church of Asolo. 

For nearly twenty years the deposed Queen of 
Cyprus had spent her life in this sumptuous Arcadia, 
when rumours of approaching war induced her to take 
shelter in Venice. The warrior Pope Julius II. could 


no longer endure the encroachments of the Republic 
in Romagna, and at length induced the Emperor 
Maximilian and the Kings of France and Spain to join 
with him in a coalition against her, called the League 
of Cambray, and Venice was defeated at A/gnadellft on 
the banks of the Adda. While the war still continued, 
Caterina was taken ill and died in the Palazza Cornaro 
della Regina on July 10, 1510. 

She was universally mourned, for a strong feeling of 
respect and affection was felt by all her native city for 
the gracious and stately personality of Caterina Cornaro, 
Queen of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia, and Signora 
of Asolo, as she signed herself to the end. 

Yet her last wish was that she might be buried in 
the habit of St. Francis, with the cord, and cowl, and 
coarse brown cloak. A magnificent funeral was 
decreed by the Republic, who caused a bridge of boats 
to be made across the Grand Canal from the Cornaro 
Palace, not far from the Rialto, to the opposite side. 
An immense procession followed to do her honour, 
including the Patriarch, the Signoria, the Vice-Doge, 
the Archbishop of Spalato, and great crowds of 
citizens, all bearing torches in their hands. The crown 
of Cyprus was placed upon her coffin, an empty 
tribute to the dead, which had been denied to the living, 
by the fatherly Senate. 

It was on the nth, that Caterina was carried to 
the Cornaro chapel in the church of SS. Apostoli, 
where her father, Marco, and her brother Giorgio's 
tombs remain to this day. A terrible storm, long 
remembered in the city, took place at the time of her 
burial, with wind and heavy rain — the mourning of 
the elements. On the following day the funeral 


service was performed with extraordinary pomp, and 
the ambassador, Andrea Navagero, poet and scholar, 
pronounced her funeral oration, and her touching 
story moved the listeners to tears. 

At a later period her body was taken to the church 
of S. Salvatore, and a tomb was raised to her memory 
in the right transept. The bas-relief represents 
Caterina giving up her crown to the Doge of Venice, 
Barbingo. She bequeathed her beautiful palace at 
Venice to the Papacy. 



Should we not humbly ask pardon from the noble 
ladies of the Renaissance when we dare to bring into 
their company a figure so notorious for evil as Biani 
Capello ? And yet, in this marvellous period of start- 
ling contrasts, good and evil were ever minglei 
that in princely hall and gorgeous festa the 
brocades of noble dame and base adventuress would 
sweep together side by side. 

Bianca was the daughter of Bartolommeo Capello, 
of a noble Venetian family, and large fortune. She 
was born in 1548, when the earlier glory of the 
Renaissance in Italy was passing somewhat into de- 
cadence, with the increase of wealth and luxury. Un- 
fortunately for the young girl, she lost her mother at 
an early age, and would not appear to have been care- 
fully trained, for one chronicle tells us that "her 
habits of life were more free than is the custom with 
noble Venetian damsels." We are also told that her 
home life was made very unhappy by an unkind step- 

Fiction has been kinder to her story than is 
warranted by more recently discovered fact, for the 
old legend ran that when in her fifteenth year she had 




fallen in love with a young gallant, after chance meet- 
ings at mass maybe ; she had granted him an imprudent 
interview at early dawn, the little side-door of the 
palace had been closed by accident, and nothing re- 
mained for the lovers but instant flight. But the 
chance discovery of an old volume of criminal trials 
belonging to the Archives of Venice has brought to 
light a curious marginal note written in Latin : 
"Effaced by order of the 'Ten.'" The historian 
Cicogna tells us how the passage, which was scratched 
out with a pen, was deciphered, and the secret re- 
vealed. This is a brief summary of the Latin entry 
which the "Ten" had thought to bury in oblivion : 

"Whereas Pietro Bonaventuri of Florence, dwelling 
in this city with his uncle Giovanni Batista Bonaven- 
turi, nigh unto the church of St. Apollinare, hath been 
accused before the criminal court of the Forty; that 
with hateful insolence and disrespect for the nobles of 
Venice, he, knowing that Bianca, the daughter of 
Bartolommeo Capello, was the heir to no mean fortune, 
and being minded to get possession of such property 
. . . dared to take her from the house of her father in 
the night following the 28th day of November in the 
year 1563, she being deceived by many lies and having 
scarce completed her sixteenth year ; he did after- 
wards take her away from Venice, thus shaming the 
name and house of a noble Venetian, in contempt of 
law, and defiance of public morals; and whereas the 
said Pietro hath not yet been found, it is ordained that 
when he shall be arrested he shall be brought to 
Venice, and at the accustomed hour, on a lofty scaffold 
raised between the two columns on the Piazza, his 
head shall be stricken from his shoulders by the public 


executioner, so that he shall die." Then a reward i 
offered for this Pietro, alive or dead, and the judgment 
is given against a certain Maria Donati, a serving-maid 
in the house, who aided in the flight. 

It is plain therefore that the elopement was plai 
and there is reason to believe that the girl carried off all 
the jewels she could lay hands on. This Pietro Bona- 
venturi was a clerk at the Salviati Bank, but he per- 
suaded Bianca that he was a member of the princely 
house, and, when their meetings could no longer be 
concealed, he induced her to fly with him to Florence 
one dark November night. The journey across the 
Apennines, so laborious and severe even tor great 
ladies with a splendid escort, must have been rough 
and trying indeed for the fugitives, with the constant 
fear of pursuit at their heels, and the foolish girl must 
very soon have begun to repent of her wild step. 

When at length she arrived safely in Florence it 
must have been a cruel awakening to find that Pietro 
had no noble connections whatever, and that his family 
lived in a poor house, a " tugurio," on the south side of 
the Piazza of San Marco. But it was now too late to 
protest, and the ill-matched couple were married in the 
house of Pietro's mother, and only too thankful to 
have a shelter over their heads, for the indignant 
Republic of Venice was offering large rewards for 
their arrest. They were very poor, for Pietro had no 
longer even his clerk's salary, and as for Bianca's 
fortune of six thousand crowns, which she inherited 
from her mother, that was declared to be confiscated. 
We are told that this high-born girl, accustomed to a 
home of wealth and luxury, was obliged to help in all the 
menial work of the house, and found her life most 


miserable. During this period she gave birth to a 
daughter, who received the name of Pellegrina. 

Meantime the story of their flight had spread through 
Italy, for a price had been set upon the head of Bona- 
venturi, and it soon became known that they were in 
Florence. This, and the fame of Bianca's beauty, 
reached the ears of Francesco, the eldest son of the 
Grand Duke Cosimo, and he felt a strong desire to see 
the fair heroine. It is most difficult to form any idea 
of the attractions of bygone beauties, for taste changes 
from one age to another, while no description, and but 
rarely even a portrait, can recall the charm of a living 
woman. But such portraits and medals as remain to 
us of the Capello do not confirm the enthusiasm of her 
contemporaries, for we see a coarse, bold face, with a 
mass of red hair and an insolent smile of triumph ; but 
this, of course, was at a much later period of her 
history. When Montaigne saw her at the court of 
Florence, he describes her as " handsome according 
to the taste of the Italians, having a cheerful and plump 
face, with considerable stoutness of person. . . ." 

At the time of Bianca's arrival in Florence, the court 
of the Grand Duke Cosimo 1. was very different from 
the literary and intellectual society which had sur- 
rounded Lorenzo the Magnificent. It was a scene of 
dissipation and luxury of the lowest description, and 
never were there so many crimes and murders in the 
streets of Florence. The duke's three daughters met 
with tragic deaths later, and in 1562 two of his sons came 
to an untimely end. Giovanni, who was nineteen years 
of age and had been a cardinal for some time, was out 
hunting with his younger brother Garzia, near Leghorn, 
and the story goes that a dispute arose between them, 


when Garzia mortally wounded his brother with his 
rapier, and when he prayed for his father's forgiveness 
he was slain at once. Whether this be the true account 
or not, it is certain that the two princes died suddenly, 
and their mother, Eleanora di Toledo, died of grief 
within a few months. 

The other sons of Cosimo were Ferdinando, who had 
recently been made a cardinal at the age of fourteen, 
and Pietro, a wild unmanageable boy of nine. His 
daughter Isabella, the wife of Paolo Giordini Orsini, 
lived a gay life in Florence apart from her Roman 

After the tragedy of his two sons' death, Cosimo re- 
signed his power into the hands of Francesco ; and 
this young prince was not long in satisfying his 
curiosity with regard to the new beauty. The wife of 
his Spanish tutor, Marchesa Mondragone, made the 
acquaintance of Bianca and her mother-in-law, as it 
was suggested that her husband would try to obtain a 
pardon for Pietro. She arranged a meeting between 
Duke Francesco and Bianca at the Casino Mediceo, in 
the Piazzo of San Marco, not far from the house of the 
Bonaventuri. The girl was not troubled by any shyness, 
and at once appealed to him for protection against the 
Republic of Venice and her own family, who had 
offered a great reward to any one who should arrest 
or kill herself, or her husband Pietro Bonaventuri. 
Francesco was ready to promise anything, for he was 
captivated by the ripe charms of this Venetian girl of 
sixteen, with her ruddy golden hair. 

But prince though he was, he had to use much 
diplomacy to conceal the progress of this love affair, 
for at that very time a marriage was being arranged for 


him with Giovanna of Austria, the sister of the Emperor 
Maximilian II., and also, his father Cosimo, who, had 
he not formally abdicated the throne, might have been 
roused to assert himself. But this was in the early 
days, before Bianca had obtained such complete 
ascendency over the weak prince, that she ruled every- 
thing according to her will. 

The marriage with the great Princess of Austria was 
celebrated with much pomp in December 1565 ; but 
the unfortunate Giovanna was not long in finding that 
her husband's affections were given elsewhere, and that 
she was even robbed of the influence and homage 
which her high position claimed. Meanwhile the 
Venetian favourite was loaded with wealth and favours ; 
the palace in the Via Maggio, still known by her name, 
was given to her, and the famous Orti Oricelli, those 
Rucellai Gardens where the Platonic Academy, founded 
by the father of Lorenzo the Magnificent, held its 
meetings for a time at the invitation of the cultured 
Bernardo Rucellai. Here Machiavelli gave his cele- 
brated discourse on Livy, and Giovanni Rucellai read 
the first Italian tragedy, Rosamunda, in the presence 
of the Pope Leo X. and a brilliant assembly. Hence- 
forth this abode of culture and learning was to be pro- 
faned by the presence of Bianca, who gave the most 
sumptuous and dissipated entertainments in the beauti- 
ful gardens, to lighten the gloom of her royal lover. 

Pietro Bonaventuri had a post at court, and a large 
salary found for him, and, freed from all clerkly duties, 
he threw himself recklessly into the wildest and most 
frivolous amusements of the young nobility. He 
engaged in several love intrigues, and more especially 
one which caused much scandal with a young and 


beautiful widow, Cassandra Bonciani, whose proud 
family, the Ricci, had already found means to compass 
the death of two of her lovers. But Pietro disre- 
garded the warning ; and one night when he was re- 
turning from a visit to her, and had reached the 
eastern side of Santo Spirito, near the foot of the 
bridge of Santa Trinita, across the Arno, suddenly 
he was attacked by a number of armed bravos; of 
his two serving-men one fled, and the other was 
stabbed, while Bonaventuri fought for his life, and 
actually succeeded in crossing the bridge, where he 
was near his palace in the Via Maggio. But after a 
desperate struggle, in which he killed one of his 
assailants, he was pierced with dagger thrusts, and left 
dead on the stones. 

At that time, such night attacks were by no means of 
rare occurrence in the streets of Florence, for we are 
told that one hundred and eighty assassinations 
occurred within the city in less than two years. That 
very night, Cassandra's bedchamber was broken into 
by masked ruffians, who murdered her in her bed, and 
it was thus that the Ricci family redeemed their 
honour. But in the death of the hapless Pietro, the 
hand of Duke Francesco was distinctly traced, as 
every facility was given to the assassins for their escape, 
and all Florence was perfectly assured of the conni- 
vance of Bianca, who had absolute dominion over her 
lover. It appears that in the early days of their 
acquaintance she had obtained from Francesco a 
solemn promise, "made before a sacred image," that 
if a time should come when they were both free, he 
would marry her. 

By the death of Pietro one obstacle was removed, 


and the only bar in the way of Bianca's ambition was 
the unfortunate Austrian princess, Francesco's neg- 
lected wife. To marry a Duke of Milan had been a 
great descent to her imperial pride, but when to this was 
added her husband's neglect and indifference, and her 
contempt and horror of the loose morals of a court 
which treated her with open scorn, she was indeed to 
be pitied. Poor Giovanna had no charm of beauty to 
attract ; her manners were reserved and haughty, and, 
unfortunately for her, she had not at that time given 
birth to an heir to the Duchy. Of her four elder 
daughters, Maria, born in 1573, became Queen of 
France, as wife of Henri IV., Romola and Isabella 
died in infancy, and Eleanora married the Duke 
Vincensio Gonzaga. 

A number of letters of Bianca Capello have been 
collected from the muniment room of the Capello 
family at Venice, mostly written during this period, 
and addressed to " the very magnificent Signor Andrea 
Capello, my most respected cousin, and as it were my 
Brother, at Venice." 

" 1573, February 21 (Venetian style). 

"... Seeing how greatly you desire my return, 
indeed I was resolved upon it after the event* which 
has taken place ; but fortune . . . made my father-in- 
law resolve on assuming the guardianship of my 
daughter, and depriving me of it, for so the laws and 
statutes of this city direct ; that if the father of one 
defunct be yet living, to him rather than any other be 
conceded the care of his grandchildren. Now think 
what must be my state of mind . . . yet I will not 
despair, and will trust in our Lord God and in your 
* Probably her husband's murder. 


illustrious excellency for the finding of some remedy, 

because the world for the most part is all out of 

order . . . 

"Your magnificence's cousin and as it were sister, 


If the "event" alluded to in this letter is her 
husband's death, as it appears, that would fix the date, 
of which historians seem uncertain. A year later she 
writes in evident allusion to the constant appeals foi 
money made by her grasping family at Venice : 

" Your lordship writes me that it has been said I 
possess twenty thousand crowns in money, but in this 
I think there is some mistake ... it is very true that I 
wrote to my most magnificent brother that in real and 
chattel, property and jewels, I have more than thirty 
thousand crowns . . . but you must consider that I 
ought to leave a part of this to my daughter . . . 

"P.S. Most magnificent lord and brother, 1 beg of 
you to do me the favour to send me my Nativity, that 
is, the day and hour of my birth, and let no one beside 
yourself know of this thing , . ." 

This must evidently have been required for the 
casting of a horoscope, as Bianca was perfectly devoted 
to necromancy and incantations of all kinds In 
another letter to the same Andrea, she writes in April 

"... I was much grieved at heart by the discourse 
between my most noble father and your most magnifi- 
cent lordship, from which I conclude that he is not 
at all well disposed towards me, and that his only wish 
to have me back in Venice is that he might bury me in 





a convent, which I will by no means do, for I know of 
a surety that so I should be lost, soul and body, and I 
do not choose, as I have often told your lordship, to 
change from a mistress to a slave ; but excepting that 
match of which I spoke to your lordship, I will leave 
everything to return to my country and my kin. 
" Your lordship's, &c, 


Duke Francesco had kept his word, and done all he 
could to reconcile the Venetian Republic to her, as 
well as her own family, but from this letter it is plain 
that he had not succeeded. 

1 Later on she alludes in various letters to "a matter 
which is of too great importance to be written," and 
she begs her cousin to come to Florence to discuss it. 
" Di troppa grande materia da mettere in carta." 

Her biographer, Signor Odorici, believes this matter 
was her hope of marrying Francesco after the death of 
the duchess. Now as all this was written while the 
poor lady was still alive and well, it looks like rather a 
curious confirmation of the general belief in Florence, 
later on, that steps had been taken to hasten the death, 
so much desired, of Giovanna. 

In the letters there are also frequent allusions to the 
great friendship shown to Bianca by Donna Isabella, 
and on one occasion she breaks off abruptly, saying 
that she is sent for by the Signora Isabella dei Medici 
to accompany her and Cardinal Ferdinando to a great 
hunting party at Pisa the fifth day of' December, 1573. 

This Ferdinando was Duke Francesco's next brother, 
about twenty-four years of age. He lived chiefly at 
Rome, where he was in good repute as a man of 


learning and ability ; but he had friends in Florence 
who sent him news of the most secret events which 
took place there. He feared and hated Bianca, but he 
was politic enough to keep on good terras with her 
outwardly. The younger brother Pietro had grown up 
wild and profligate, a terror to peaceful citizens, and a 
constant source of anxiety to his cardinal brother. 
Before his father's death in 1574, he had married a 
Spanish lady, Eleonora di Garzia, of more than doubt- 
ful character, who paid for her frailty with her life, for 
only two years later Pietro put her to death with his own 
hand, in the Villa of Cafaggiuolo in the Apennines. 
This was the same old castle where, in bygone days, 
Clarice, the wife of Lorenzo dei Medici, and the tutor 
Poliziono had their difference of opinion on the 
subject of the children's lessons. Little did they 
dream of the awful tragedy which would be enacted in 
that lonely desolate spot by a degraded member of 
that Medici family, of which they were both so proud. 
Nothing could more sharply accentuate the contrast 
between the quiet domestic life in the early days of the 
Renaissance, and the passion and crime of its deca- 
dence. But we have not yet had our fill of horrors 
until we touch upon the tragedy of the Lady Isabella 
dei Medici, mentioned above as the friendly patroness 
of Bianca. This princess, who was the sister of Duke 
Francesco, and the wife of Paolo Giordano Orsini, 
lived in open immorality, which gave great scandal to 
her brother, Cardinal Fernando. He strongly urged 
upon the duke the need of interference in the matter, 
and persuaded him at length to send for Orsini, who 
had taken up his residence in Rome. A secret con- 
sultation was held between the husband and brother of 


Isabella, in which her fate appears to have been sealed, 
for the last words spoken by Francesco were over- 

"When you have assured yourself of the shameful 
truth, bear ever in mind that you are a Christian and a 
'gentiluomo.' " He also placed at the disposal of 
Orsini a villa which had been a favourite resort of 
Lorenzo the Magnificent, outside the Porta Romana, 
and now called Poggio Imperiale. Isabella must have 
been surprised to find her husband so attentive and 
affectionate, for he had brought her a present of a 
couple of greyhounds, and also invited her to a great 
supper at the villa; but she went thither without 
apparent misgiving, although it was afterwards remem- 
bered that she had seemed sad and restless that 

The next day it was announced in Florence that the 
great lady had died suddenly in the night of apoplexy, 
but the chroniclers of the day had little doubt that the 
unfortunate Isabella was strangled by her husband. It 
is a significant fact, that after this occurrence, Orsini 
was more friendly than ever with the Medici brothers, 
and Francesco, miser as he was, paid most of his 
brother-in-law's debts. 

The death of this beautiful and accomplished woman 
took place on July 16, 1576, and after this time it was 
noticed that her brother the duke gave way more than 
ever to fits of gloom and violence. It was a cause of 
constant discontent to him that he had no son to suc- 
ceed him, and to attain this end Bianca had consulted 
every necromancer and dealer in philtres and spells 
throughout Italy. But all her magic arts were in vain ; 
and the story goes that at length she conceived the 


lacious plan of foisting a surreptitious child i 
the Medici family. She seems to have arranged her 
plans, according to Galluzzi, with great skill ; and on 
August 29, 1576, it was announced to the Court and 
city that a son had been born to the Grand Duke. He 
received the name of Antonio, as Bianca declared that 
his birth was due to the intercession of that saint, and 
Francesco bought for him a principality in the kingdom 
of Naples, at the price of 200,000 ducats. But in 
Florence no one believed in the child ; and we are told 
that Cardinal Fernando, having obtained positive 
proofs from a poor woman, murdered by order of the 
duchess, who confessed on her deathbed — went with 
the whole story to his brother, who met it with 
absolute incredulity. Galluzzi sets him down as 
an accomplice to the fraud, after its successful 

It was a curious coincidence that a year later, in 
1577, a son was actually born to the Grand Duchess 
Giovanna, to the immense satisfaction of all the Medici 
family, who cordially hated Bianca. Philip II. of 
Spain was godfather to the heir, who received the 
name of Filippo. 

During the rejoicings which followed, Bianca found 
it wise to leave Florence for awhile ; but the duke 
could not live without her ; and when his first rejoicing 
at the birth of his heir had passed over, his Venetian 
favourite was recalled, and he loaded her and the child 
Antonio with gifts. Her brother Vittorio was invited 
from Venice, and his coming was made the occasion of 
an extraordinary entertainment in the Rucellai Gardens. 
The feast was under the management of a famous 
magician, and the contemporary writer, Celio Malespini, 


gives a very full account of it, from which this short 
sketch is taken. 

In the beautiful wooded groves of that marvellous 
walled garden within the city walls, the wizard made 
all his elaborate preparation. He marked out a large 
circle in the centre of the greensward, under which a 
shallow pit had been already dug out, but it was care- 
fully concealed from view by a kind of wooden plat- 
form covered with freshly-cut turf. On one side of 
this were two large braziers hlled with live coals, and a 
vase full of drugs for fumigation, and a black and 
yellow rope was stretched all round the enclosure. 
When all was ready the necromancer, clothed in a 
black robe, with a mitre on his head covered with 
pentagons and strange figures, stepped out slowly to 
meet the guests, and invited them within the magic 
circle. Then he whistled loudly, to the east, north, 
south and west. He then seized a silver bell, and 
ringing it with a slow loud peal, he cried in a hollow 
voice : " Come hither, come hither, all spirits who owe 
me obedience, Barbicul 1 Solsibec 1 Tarmidorl Zampir 1 
Borgamur 1 " 

By this time it was long after sunset, and the grow- 
ing darkness added to the weird effect, for the only 
light was from the lurid glare of the braziers. At this 
moment he gave orders for great handfuls of the 
noxious drugs to be cast on the flames, which sent 
forth a dense blue smoke and so abominable an odour 
that it was almost unbearable. Then he clapped his 
hands thrice ; and instantly there came forth horrible 
cries and groans from below, with strange howling and 
clanking of chains. The guests being now thoroughly 
alarmed, suddenly the platform gave way, and they all 


fell into the pit, with the exception of the grand du 
and a few others who were privately warned. 

"Having thus fallen into the bowels of the earth," 
says Malespini, " the devils were upon them, making 
fearful noises, and hideous in the lurid glow of the 
Barnes ; till the hapless creatures scarce knew if they 
were alive or dead." At that moment a bevy of beauti- 
ful girls came to the rescue, and "angelic voices sang 
hymns appropriate to the occasion." Those who were 
seriously injured amongst the victims were carried to 
beds prepared for them ; and so the entertainment 
ended, to the great amusement of Bianca, who had 
watched the whole scene from a distance. Such were 
the orgies carried on in the historical gardens, where 
once Lorenzo and his learned friends had calmly dis- 
cussed the philosophy of their beloved Plato. 

It had been a fresh sorrow and disappointment f 
the unhappy Grand Duchess Giovanna to see Bianca 
resume her sway over Francesco ; she was in bad 
health at the time, and too much overcome with sad- 
ness to have the energy to rally. On May n, 1578, 
she passed away from a world which had given her so 
little joy. Although her cold, reserved manner had 
not won popularity, yet she was deeply mourned by all 
the city, and always spoken of with sympathy and 
respect. She had a magnificent funeral in San Lorenzo, 
the great mortuary church of the Medici. 

W. Story tells us that when her coffin was opened 
in 1857 "she was as fresh in colour as if she had just 
died ... in her red satin, trimmed with lace, her red 
silk stockings and high-heeled shoes, the earrings 
hanging from her ears, and her blonde hair as fresh as 
ever. And so, centuries after she had been laid there, 


the truth became evident of the rumour that ran 
through Florence at the time of her death, that she 
had died of poison. The arsenic which had taken her 
life had preserved her body." A strange confirmation 
of rumour, if indeed this be (he true explanation. 

After his wife's death Francesco wandered about his 
dominions, restless and troubled ; but whether by 
remorse or by uncertainty as to his future conduct we 
know not. He consulted his court chaplain as to 
whether he should keep his promise of marrying 
Bianca, and was advised not to do so ; but the lady, 
hearing of this, went to the duke's own Franciscan 
confessor, and pointed out to him that the bishopric of 
Chiusi was at that moment vacant. The friar took the 
hint and gave the required advice, with the result that 
the duke found his duty and his wishes coinciding. 
At the same time Bianca wrote him a touching letter, 
saying that she was resigned to his will, but that she 
could not survive his loss. This finally decided the 
duke, and the marriage was privately performed by the 
Franciscan friar, only twenty-four days after the death 
of Giovanna, in the little dark chapel of the Palazzo 
Vecchio. It was kept secret, even from Cardinal 
Ferdinando, for many months, then it was made 
known to King Philip of Spain ; and next it occurred 
to Francesco that he would write a smooth letter to 
the senators of Venice, speaking of Bianca as a daughter 
of the Republic, and announcing his intention of 
making her his Grand Duchess. 

The success of this message was beyond all his 
expectations. His envoy was received at the Capello 
Palace by the Patriarch of Aquileia, and attended by 
forty senators. Bartolommeo Capello and his son 


were made " illustrissimi cavalieri," with precedem 
over all others, and there were festal rejoicings in the 
city. On June 16, 1579, a vote of the Senate declared 
that " the Grand Duke of Tuscany having chosen for 
his wife Bianca Capelio, of a most noble family in this 
city, a lady adorned with all those most singular and 
excellent qualities, and most worthy of any the highest 
fortune, it is decreed that she be created a true and 
particular daughter of the Republic." A splendid gold 
chain was bestowed on the Florentine ambassador, 
and a certain compromising entry in the public 
registers was erased by order of the " Ten." 

It was now openly announced to all the courts of 
Europe that the duke's marriage with a daughter of 
the Republic would take place on October 12. A 
fortnight before the great event a magnificent embassy 
arrived from Venice "to place Bianca Capello in full 
possession of all prerogatives appertaining to a daughter 
of San Marco." The ambassadors were accompanied 
by a train of ninety Venetian nobles, and besides these, 
there were as many as eighty connections of the bride's 
family, and they were all entertained with such pomp 
and gorgeous festivities that the cost to Florence was 
reckoned at 300,000 ducats, an enormous sum, if we 
consider the much higher value of money in those 
days. The ceremony of Bianca's coronation and 
marriage began in the great hall of the Palazzo 
Vecchio, that ancient citadel of Italian freedom, and 
from thence Bianca was borne in state to the cathedral, 
with the crown on her head. 

It was a time of dearth and famine in Florence, yet 
the subservient Venetians carried off many and costly 
gifts and the grand duchess was to receive an extra 


100,000 ducats to be invested in the mint of Venice. 
She had attained the summit of her ambition, and could 
now afford to be gracious to her old enemies, for we 
find her writing to Cardinal Ferdinando : " I live more 
for you than for myself. Indeed I live but in you, for 
I cannot live without you. . . ." 

The extraordinary and reckless extravagance of the 
wedding festivities must be looked upon as a test of 
Bianca's unbounded influence over the grand duke, 
for his strongest feeling was avarice. No means of 
adding to his wealth had been left untried ; he derived 
immense revenues from his trading speculations, which 
stretched over the whole of Europe, and there was no 
important city where he had not a large share in the 
banking interest. He carried on a prosperous trade 
with ships of his own, in wool, grain, silk, leather, 
pepper and other spices. Besides the gains of a great 
merchant and banker he had those of a sovereign, from 
heavy taxation, fines and confiscation. From his vast 
wealth, he advanced loans to foreign Powers which 
often turned the scale of war ; but through it all he 
had a miser's love for his gold. Another passion of 
his which gave him much trouble in negotiations about 
his time, was that of title. His father had obtained 
that of " Grand Duke of Tuscany " from Pope Pius V., 
and he was therefore a "Most Serene Highness"; 
but the other States of Italy would not recognise his 
supremacy, and also called themselves "Serene/' to 
the extreme indignation of Francesco, 

He had a fresh trouble early in 1582, in the death of 
his littie son, Filippo, the only boy of poor Giovanna ; 
and he felt the loss acutely. Indeed, after this time he 
fell into a terrible state of gloom and melancholy, and 


shut himself almost entirely in the lonely Villa of 
Pratolino, about eight miles from Florence on the way 
to Bologna. It stood on the slopes of the Apennines, 
of which Ruskin gives such a striking description in 
this immediate neighbourhood — "The country is on 
a sudden lonely ... a scene not sublime, for its 
forms are subdued and low, only a grey extent of 
mountain ground, tufted irregularly with ilex and 
olive ; not rich nor lovely, but sunburnt and sorrow- 
ful ; becoming wilder every instant as the road winds 
into its recesses, ascending still until the higher woods, 
now partly oak and partly pine, dropping back from 
the central nest of the Apennines, leave a pastoral 
wilderness of scattered rock and arid grass, withered 
away here by frost, and there by lambent tongues of 
earth-fed fire." 

Amid these grey surroundings Bianca lived a 
wretched life for more than five years, shut up with a 
husband whose melancholy was only varied by reckless 
excesses, and gusts of savage ferocity. Her highest 
ambition was gratified ; a long coveted and splendid 
position was hers, and wealth beyond her wildest 
dreams, yet she was a miserable woman. The one 
thing she craved for — and for which she would have 
sold her soul, in the darkest magic and witchcraft — 
was denied her. No son was born to her, although 
constant rumours were spread as to her expectations. 

Thus time passed on, and Cardinal Ferdinando was 
kept in a constant state of fear and suspense as to his 
own ultimate succession to the duchy. But, outwardly, 
he kept on the most friendly terms with Bianca, and 
in October 1587, he was invited to pay a visit to his 
brother at his country retreat of Poggio-a-Cajano, a 


low-lying villa on the banks of the river Ombrone, at 
the foot of Monte Albano, about half way between 
Florence and Pistoia. It had been a favourite resort 
of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who went there for his 
favourite amusement of hawking. An old proverb 
says : 

" Val pin una lustra <ii Poggio a Cajano 
Che tutte le bellezze d'Artemino." 

Ferdinando was accompanied by the Archbishop of 
Florence, and they were most hospitably received by 
Bianca ; ample sport being provided for them, as the 
neighbouring marshes abounded with game. All went 
well until October 19, when Duke Francesco was 
suddenly taken ill, and died at nine o'clock in the 
evening ; the Duchess Bianca was also seized with the 
same complaint, and only survived until the next 
morning. These are the undoubted facts, but 
Florentine historians have held different views as 
to the cause of the tragedy. A very curious letter 
has been preserved, which was written shortly after 
the event. 

"Quando, che alii giornt passati la Morte cavalco 
sopra il suo destriero magro, e disfatto per investirsi 
del titolo di Grande. La Morte ottenne a Roma il 
titolo di Grande, e conseguita ch'ella ebbe cossifatta 
indecentissima intitolazione, se ne cavalcava frettolosa 
alia volta del Poggio a Caiano, e quivi con irresistibile 
forza e pari valore assalto il Grande Etrusco di Firenze 
e Siena, e lo abbatte alii 19 di Ottobre, 1587, a 4 ore 
e mezzo di notte, e di 47 anni lo privo di vita dopo 
strani e disusati scontorcimenti, e ululati e muggiti 

"When in these past days, Death rode on his thin 


pale horse to invest himself with the title of Great. 
Death obtained in Rome the title of Great, and having 
received this most indecent title, he rode in haste 
towards Poggio a Cajano, and there with irresistible 
force and equal valour assaulted . . . &c." Giovanni 
Vettorio Soderini." 

It has been suggested that Death rode From Rome 
in company with Cardinal Ferdinando, for the latest 
theory supports the popular opinion that he poisoned 
his brother and sister-in-law ; although some suggest 
that Bianca had prepared the poison for the cardinal, 
while others assert that the duke and his wife died of 
malarious fever. When Pope Sixtus V. heard the news, 
he saw how strong the suspicion would be against 
Ferdinando, who had everything to gain by the event, 
and who at once succeeded to the duchy. A pompous 
funeral was accorded to Francesco under the dome of 
San Lorenzo ; but with regard to Bianca, the new duke 
exclaimed: "We will have none of her among our 
dead 1 " Her body was wrapped in a sheet and 
thrown into the common grave for the poor, under the 
nave of the same church. 

"There, at Cajano, 
Where when the hawks were mewed and evening came, 
Pulci would set the table in a roar 
With his wild lay — there, where the sun descends, 
And hill and dale are lost, veiled with his beams, 
The fair Venetian died, she and her lord — 
Died of a posset drugged by him who sate 
And saw them suffer, flinging back the charge 
The murderer on the murdered."— Rogers' " Italy." 

It is interesting to know that after the death of 
Francesca and his wife, their reputed son, Prince 


Antonio, then a boy of eleven, was unmolested, and 
lived to enjoy many peaceful years in the "Casino 
Medici/' where he devoted his time to the cultivation 
of art and science. Pellegrina, the daughter of Bianca, 
was happily married some years before, to Count 
Ulisse Bentivoglio. 





1460. Federigo. Duke of Urbino, marries Batlista Sforza. 
1462. Catarina Sfona born. Daughter of Galeaxzo, Duke of 

1471. Elisabetia Gonxaga born, daughter of Fedeiico Gon- 

raga of Mantua. 
1471. Gaidobaldo bom, son of Federigo, Duke of Urbino. 
1473. Girolamo Riario betrothed to Catarina Sforia. 

1476. Assassination of Galeazzo Maria Sfona, Duke of Milan. 

1477. Catarina Sforza marries Count Girolamo Riario. 

1480. Count Girolamo takes possession of Forli. 
„ Birth of Lucrezia Borgia at Rome. 

14S1. Sixtus IV. combines with Venice against Ferrara. 

1481. Death of Federigo, Duke of Urbino. Guidobaldo I. 

succeeds him. 

1483. Guidobaldo enters the service of Naples. 

1484. Death of Sintus IV. Treaty of Bagnuolo. Inno- 

cent VIII. succeeds. 
1488. Assassination of Count Girolamo Riario at Fori!. 

,, DukeGuidobaldo marries ElisabettaGoniaga of Mantua. 
1490. Birth of Vittoria Colonna, daughter of FabrizJo Co- 


Death of Lorenzo dei Medici. Alexander VI. becomes 



Lucrezia Borgia marries Giovanni Sforza, of Pesaro. 


Guidobaldo helps the Pope to restore Ferdinand 11. to 



Guidobaldo defeated and taken prisoner by Bracciano. 

Divorce of Lucrezia Borgia, 1498. She marries Al- 

fonso, Duke of Bisaglia. 

Catarina Sforza marries Giovanni dei Medici. 


Guidobaldo helps the Medici. His illness at Bibbiena. 


Cicsar Borgia takes Forli and Imola, and carries 

Catarina Sforza to Rome. 


Lucrezia Borgia marries Alfonso d'Este, Duke of 



EHsabetta, Duchess of Urbino, visits Venice. 

Cassar Borgia takes Urbino by treachery. Duke's 

flight to Mantua. 


Death of Pope Alexander VI. Guidobaldo returns to 



Guidobaldo visits Pope J'llius II. 


The Pope visits Urbino. Baldassare Castiglione at 

Urbino. (11 Cortegiano.) 


Death of Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino. Francesco 

Maria succeeds. 


Marriage of VittoriaColonna to the Marquis of Pescaro. 

Death of Catarina Sforza at Florence. 

Marriage of Francesco. Duke of Urbino, to Leonora 

Gonzaga of Mantua. 


Leo X. dei Medici becomes Pope. 


Duke of Urbino deprived of his office as Gonfaloniers 

of the Church and of his duchy. 


Death of Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara. 


Death of Leo X. Duke of Urbino recovers his duchy 

after seven years of exile with the Dowager Duchess 

Elisabetta and his wife. 


Death of Elisabetta Gonzaga, Duchess (dowager) of 



Death of Ferrante, Marquis of Pescaro, husband of 

Vittoria Colonna. 


Rome sacked by the Imperialists. Pope Clement VII, 

a prisoner. 


General peace in Italy. 


Vittoria Colonna visits Duchess RenSe at Ferrara. 


Death of Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa of Pescara, 



CATARINA SFORZA is a splendid type of the "warrior 
woman," of which Italy has ever been so proud ; the 
Virago, as she is called not in blame but honour. She 
was an illegitimate daughter of that notorious Galeazzo 
Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, son of Francesco, whose 
passions he had inherited but not his ability. Born in 
1462, the little girl was legitimatised at eight years old, 
and brought up by the Duchess Bona of Savoy, who 
treated her in all respects as her own child. 

Her life may be said to have begun with tragedy, for 
she was still a child when her father was brutally 
murdered. It was a strange, and to us a meaningless 
crime, and yet Sixtus IV. was right when he exclaimed 
on receiving the news, "The peace of Italy is dead." 
This is the account we have of it. The Duke of Milan, 
unsuspicious of any danger, was quietly entering the 
Church of San Stefano at Christmas tide 1470, when he 
was suddenly attacked and stabbed to death by three 
nobles of Milan and their bravos. He was accom- 
panied at the time by two ambassadors, who caught 
him as he fell forward, but for the moment no one 
realised what had happened. It was a desperate 
adventurer, named Lampugnani, who struck the first 


blow ; pressing through the crowd, he fell on his knee 
before the duke to present a petition, and stabbed him 
with a dagger hidden up his sleeve. Then, as Galeazzo 
fell on the pavement, his assassins covered him with 
dagger thrusts. 

Of the other two chief conspirators one, Visconti, 
avenged an insult to his sister, while the third, Olgiati, 
was a Republican who dreamed of freeing the State of 
a tyrant. The confusion was so great that these two 
escaped for the time, but Lampugnani tripped his foot 
in a woman's train and was put to death by the 
populace, who had no sympathy with the murderers. 
A chronicler of the time gives a striking account of the 
young prince setting forth in his gay suit of crimson 
brocade, from the Castello that morning, and smiling 
at the presentiment of his wife, Bona of Savoy, who 
had besought him not to enter the church that day. 

The widowed duchess in her anguish at his loss, thus 
suddenly cut off unshriven, wrote an imploring letter 
to the Pope, praying him to give her dear husband 
plenary absolution for his many and grievous crimes. 
She promised to make all the atonement in her power, 
by redressing wrongs, and by building churches and 
hospitals, and other good works. This was rather a 
sudden change of mood for the great lady, who had 
been noted for her magnificence and worldly splendour, 
of which she and her husband gave a great display 
when they paid a visit to the Court of Lorenzo at 
Florence. He had been godfather to her infant son, 
and on that occasion had presented her with a magni- 
ficent diamond necklace ; and his friendship was a 
great help and support to her now in her regency. 

Before the murder of Galeazzo he had arranged a 


marriage for his daughter Catarina with Girolamo 
Riario, the nephew of the Pope, who expressed to the 
Duchess Bona his earnest wish that it should be carried 
out at once. So the young girl was married with great 
pomp in the month of April 1477, when she was 
scarcely in her sixteenth year. 

As usual, the chroniclers give a very full and in- 
teresting account of the journey to Rome, and the 
young bride's triumphal entrance, as she rode in 
through the Porta del Popolo, the centre of a brilliant 
cavalcade, on a richly caparisoned dappled palfrey. 
On this occasion Catarina was very gorgeously dressed 
in a robe of the newest fashion, called a "Cyprian," 
which excited much interest, and was not entirely 
approved of, for it was cut square to the bust, in a 
manner which showed the whole neck. It was of 
crimson brocade lined with ermine, extremely full 
round the feet, and close fitting from the waist up- 
wards, with very long and large sleeves, and a girdle of 
silver gilt worked with pearls. 

Her hair was drawn back over a cushion and tied 
with strings of pearls, and over all she wore a veil of 
beautifully thin fine white lawn. She was greatly 
admired, and all Rome was soon at her feet, for she 
became an immense favourite with the Pope, her uncle 
(or father-in-law). 

One contemporary historian describes her in flowery 
language : " When she issued from her litter, it was as if 
the sun had emerged, so gorgeously beautiful did she 
appear, laden with silver, and gold, and jewels, but still 
more striking from her natural charms. Her hair, 
wreathed in the manner of a coronet, was brighter than 
the gold with which it was twined. Her forehead was of 


burnished ivory ; her eyes sparkled behind the mantling 
crimson of her cheeks, as morning stars . . ." 

Another biographer writes of her : " It would be 
difficult to find in history any woman who so far 
surpassed her sex, who was so much the wonder of 
her contemporaries and the marvel of posterity. En- 
dowed with a lofty and masculine spirit, she was born 
to command . . ." 

The splendid palace on the banks of the Tiber, now 
called the Corsini, with its stately halls, and delicious 
terraces, looking down on the Farnese palaces and 
gardens, was bestowed upon Riario and Catarina, and 
adorned with the most magnificent furnishings of 
every kind, and priceless works of art. 

Sixtus IV., according to his promise, confirmed to his 
nephew the township of Imola, on the high road, 
south of Bologna, of which he was ecclesiastical lord, 
and gave him 40,000 ducats. Catarina appears to have 
had no lack of wedding presents, and we are told that 
two days after her marriage, Girolamo sent his bride a 
casket containing diamond necklaces, and robes of 
gold brocade and of velvet, embroidered with fine 
pearls ; one dress alone carried nearly 3000 pearls ; 
there was also a purse of gold, silver-embroidered 
girdles and many other precious things. The month 
following her marriage, her half-sister Anna, who was 
only three years old, was betrothed to Alfonso of Este, 
the son of Duke Ercole of Ferrara. There were 
solemn processions and thanksgivings on the occasion, 
and the infant bridegroom's wedding contract was 

Catarina was a beautiful girl, full of boundless spirit 
and energy. In those early years of her married life, 


when she was one of the most brilliant ornaments of 
the papal court, she had a constant round of gaiety and 
amusement. She was passionately fond of dancing, 
and a poet exclaims to her : " Catarina, if you make the 
dance go thus, Atlas will find the world a lighter 
burden." Another writer tells us " how well she knew, 
in the intervals of her frenzied existence, how to enjoy 
life, when she gave herself up to the beauty of her 
flowers, the charm of her gardens, the delight of seeing 
her splendid drove of cattle peacefully grazing in her 
parks. Dogs never had a more tender protectress. 
She evoked the people's enthusiasm and applause 
when, riding in a red skirt at the head of her hunts- 
men, like a legendary fairy, and reining up her horse 
with her delicate scented hand, she smiled upon them 
all, her beautiful white teeth flashing between her full 
ruby lips." • 

We have a most interesting letter which she wrote 
in 1481 to the Duchess Leonora of Ferrara four years 
after her marriage. 

" Illustrissima e Excellentissima Signora, — The 
credible accounts and perfect information brought in 
by innumerable persons about the extreme kindness 
and rare munificence of your excellency, inspire me 
with the boldness to address you in confidence. I 
know that the most illustrious lord your spouse and 
your most illustrious ladyship adore hunting and birds, 
and that you have always in abundance dogs of all 
kinds, excellent, perfect. 1 beseech your excellency 
very earnestly that you would deign to make me a very 
beautiful and very precious present, namely, a pair of 
* De Maulde de la Claviire. 


eyhounds, well-trained and fleet-footed, for the deer 
of the Campagna, which are very swift : a couple of good 
deer-hounds and a couple of handsome pointers, so 
good that 1 may hope to say regarding their exploits 
when they catch their quarry, 'these are the dogs the 
most illustrious Duchess of Ferrarragaveme.' I know 
that your excellency will not send me anything but 
what is really good." 

Then she cordially recommends to the duchess the 
falconer she is sending to fetch the hounds, and pro- 
bably to choose them. 

The chase was extremely popular at Rome, and the 
hunts in the great Campagna were renowned of old 
for the deer were fleet, and the boars so fierce that they 
needed a special breed of hounds to cope with 

But hunting alone did not absorb the thoughts of 
the brilliant princess, for so high in favour was she 
with the Pope, that we find great princes of Italy, 
courtiers, petitioners of every kind, making intercession 
to this young girl, in order to obtain their requests. 
No honours were beyond the reach of her husband. 
He was made a citizen of Rome with much ceremony, 
in the year of his marriage, and while Catarina was 
enjoying life to the full, he was steadily and craftily 
working his way, and increasing his dominions, Imola 
was already his, and he had set his heart on Faenza 
and Forli. But the Medici were suspicious, and on 
the watch for any overt act of aggression on the part 
of the Pope's nephew, who therefore secretly joined 
with the Pazzi family in that dark plot, which had for 
its aim the assassination of the Medici brothers, and 







met with fatal success in the murder of Giuliano, in 

By the confession of agents employed in it, this 
disgraceful conspiracy was traced to the cruel and 
treacherous Girolamo, and Pope Sixtus himself was 
more than suspected of being an accomplice. On 
being accused of connivance, he at once excommuni- 
cated Lorenzo and all Florence, in punishment for the 
summary vengeance taken on the murderers. 

Meantime endless festivities in Rome mingled with 
these crimes and ambitious designs. Distinguished 
strangers were constantly making pilgrimage to the 
Eternal City from all parts of Europe ; foreign ambas- 
sadors came to bring gifts, to plead some national 
cause, to obtain absolution, or seek help of some kind 
from the successor of Saint Peter. 

It was the custom to receive visitors at the city gate, 
and conduct them in pomp through the streets to their 
abode with a great retinue, to the delight of the Roman 
populace, who knew that this was a prelude to out- 
door festivities in which they could share. Thus when 
the Duke of Saxony arrived on March 22, 1480, to pay 
a vow, he was met at the Porta del Popolo by the Pope 
and all his Cardinals, and conducted in state with an 
immense following to St. Peter's and presented with 
the consecrated golden rose, which on this occasion 
was an oak-bough, the heraldic emblem of the Delia 
Rovere family. 

The chronicler, Jacopo di Volterra, tells us that on 
this occasion Girolamo and his countess gave a great 
hunting party in honour of Duke Ernest on April 10, 
in the immediate neighbourhood of Rome, towards the 
Fonte Malliane, to the great joy of the citizens, as they 


could all join in the sport. It must have been 
splendid sight to see the princes riding out on thi 
fine horses, with the hounds in leash ; themselves 
"shining with gold and jewels," accompanied by 
Catarina and her ladies in crimson and scarlet costumes, 
and followed by a gay retinue. Then as they reached 
the woods on the hillside, the horns sounded with the 
eager cry of the hunters and woke the echoes far and 
wide. A great number of stags and deer were taken, 
and after the chase a great banquet was prepared under 
the ilex woods for all to join in, high-born prince and 
citizen alike, to "their no small content." 

During her four years of residence in Rome at the 
magnificent Palazzo Corsini, the Countess Riario had 
four children born to her. The eldest, a daughter who 
received the name of Bianca, was born in March 1478, 
and was her only girl. Ottaviano was born in Sep- 
tember 1479, and Cesare in August 1480, just a month 
before his father received from the Pope the longed- 
for investiture of the city and domain of Forli. The 
infant heir of the Ordelaffi, who had so long held 
dominion there, had most opportunely died, whereupon 
Sixtus declared that the fief was forfeited, and had 
devolved to the Holy See. 

Forli is about sixteen miles south-east of Imola, in 
the same fertile district, lying between the Apennines 
and the Adriatic, and is one of the most important 
towns of Romagna, forming a most useful link, with 
its strong fortress, between the Papal States and Imola. 
A few days after this investiture, Girolamo was ap- 
pointed generalissimo of the army, and this being 
September 8, the birthday of the Virgin, there was a 
solemn mass, and Riario in complete armour knelt 


before the Pope, received the staff and standard, and 
took the oaths, in the presence of all the cardinals. 

It was at daybreak on June 30, 1481, that the Count 
and Countess of Forli set forth on the eventful journey 
to their new home ; the day and hour having been 
carefully selected by the court astrologer. During the 
whole of the previous week, long trains of laden mules 
and carts might have been seen passing out of the city, 
guarded by men-at-arms, and making their slow way 
by Orte and Spoleto to Perugia, on over the rough 
bridle paths of the Apennines, through the broad 
alluvial plains, by the Via Emilia to distant Forli. The 
old chronicles speak with awe and amazement of the 
immense treasure in richest stuffs, tapestries, clothing, 
furnishing, jewels and gold and silver plate, which was 
carried away from Rome in this slow laborious 
manner, each load being covered with an emblazoned 
cloth, bearing the united arms of Rovere and Sforza. 
The children had also been sent on in advance, and 
expectation in the provincial town was at its very 
highest, when at length Girolamo and Catarina reached 
the city gate on J uly 1 5. They were met by a company 
of youths and maidens clothed in white, and bearing 
olive-branches, with all the priests and bearers of office. 

The people of Forli had never seen anything so 
magnificent as Catarina in her sumptuous robe, 
glittering with pearls and diamonds, and they were 
much impressed by the great Roman nobles who rode 
with their new count. Then followed the usual 
festivities, tournaments, balls, banquets and orations, 
in return for which loyal welcome Girolamo remitted 
the duty on corn. Building was at once commenced ; 
to complete the strong fortress, enlarge the palace, and 


found schools and other public works. After a while, 
they went on a visit to Imola, and were received in 
much the same manner. 

The chronicler of Forli says that, " charming it was 
to see the lady countess and all her damsels come 
forth in different magnificent dresses for a whole week, 
and the great buffets, ten feet high, in the banqueting 
hall of the palace, loaded every day with a fresh service 
of silver and gold." Every room in the grim palace of 
Forli was adorned with splendid hangings of tapestry, 
and magnificently furnished with the priceless spoils 
brought from Rome. 

Elated by his previous success, the count's ambition 
extended to new conquests , and he now turned his 
eyes towards Ferrara. The moment seemed propitious, 
for Ercole Duke of Ferrara had quarrelled with Venice, 
and had been excommunicated by the Pope for having 
taken the post of general, on the side of Florence. 
Girolamo therefore found a pretext for a visit with his 
wife to Venice. Now the wily Venetians always looked 
on with approval at the ruin of hereditary rulers by 
papal nephews, who could have no permanent rule ; 
for they knew that in the end the spoils would fall to 

Girolamo and Catarina travelled to Venice by 
Comacchio and the marshes, to avoid Ferrara ; the 
count giving as a pretext for his visit the urgent need 
of a league against the Turks, who had taken Otranto. 
A bucentaur with the Doge and Senators came to 
meet him at St. Clement in the Lagoon, two miles 
from Venice. He and his wife were received with 
princely honours in the Doge's palace, where " the 
noble virgins of Venice to the number of onehundred 


and thirty-two, loaded with gems, gold, and pearls," 
were assembled to welcome them. The Doge, 
Giovanni Mocenigo, took his place on a high dais, 
with the count on one side and the countess on the 
other, and all the nobles of Venice and their ladies sat 
around the hall. The afternoon and evening were 
given up to dancing and feasting; candles of white 
wax being lighted in such profusion that "the night 
was turned into day." The dresses of the ladies on 
this occasion were said to be worth 300,000 gold pieces. 
The next day, the Senators proceeded to business with 
their guest, privately discussed the division of the 
Este property, and found an excuse to declare war 
against Ferrara, in May 1482. 

After this, the object of the journey being apparently 
attained, the count and countess returned to Imola ; 
but they had not been there long before they received 
news of a conspiracy at Forli to restore the deposed 
family of the Ordelaffi. This, however, was promptly 
suppressed by the zeal of Francesco Tolentino, the 
governor, and Girolamo was able to set out for Rome 
with his wife, on October 14. The negotiations with 
Venice had not been kept so secret but that rumours 
had reached the King of Naples, who prepared a force 
to help the Duke of Ferrara. This was the signal for 
general hostilities, and offered a splendid opportunity 
for the condottieri to make their fortune. The Pope 
and Venice were on one side, while Florence, Naples, 
and Milan were on the other, with all the smaller States 
joining in, according to their private feuds. Roberto 
Malatesta commanded the armies of Venice, and the 
opposing league chose the distinguished Duke Federigo 
of Urbino. 



In this brief sketch we cannot follow the varying 
fortunes of the struggle which followed, but it 
curiously illustrates the nature of this internecine war 
— that the two rival generals, both losing their lives, 
though not on the field of battle — had previously 
bequeathed to each other the care of their children and 
property. Roberto died in Rome, probably of fever, 
but rumour hinted that Girolamo had poisoned him 
out of jealousy. He was buried in St. Peter's with 
great honour ; endless torches, banners and standards, 
one of which bore his arms with the motto : Veni, 
vidi, vici ; victoriam Sixto dedi ; Mors invidit gloria?." 
Infessura cynically tells an anecdote, in recording 
this pompous funeral: "A great captain had once 
saved Siena, and the people were at a loss how to re- 
ward him fitly. Then a citizen rose and said : ' Let us 
put him to death, and then worship him as a saint, so 
making him our perpetual protector,' which was done. 
Now it is said — not that I altogether believe it," adds 
Infessura honestly — "that the Pope followed the ex- 
ample of these Sienese, in the matter of Malatesta's 
death, and his funeral honours." 

We can believe anything of Pope Sixtus IV., the 
promoter of the Inquisition, after reading his cruel 
treatment of the Colonna family in his feud with them 
at this time, and his judicial murder of the Proto- 
notary. Meantime, a Congress was held, and the Pope 
found it to his interest to withdraw from the Venetian 
alliance, while Girolamo, who had not distinguished 
himself in the war, was ready enough to grasp the 
spoils of the victor, in theshape of Ravenna and Cervia. 
Italy was weary of war, and peace was made, without 
consulting the fiery Sixtus, who was furious at the 


thought that Ferrara would never belong to his nephew, 
and his rage is said to have killed him. 

At this critical moment, when the triumphant career 
of Riario was brought to an abrupt end, he was away 
from Rome, engaged in harassing the Colonna family 
in their fastnesses ; but Catarina, who was then on a 
visit, rose to the occasion. She at once took possession 
of the Castello St. Angelo, in the name of her husband, 
who was commander of the forces, and thus secured 
a safe refuge for herself and her children, in the 
fearful tumult and disorder, which followed upon the 
Pope's death. The city was given up to anarchy, many 
houses were pillaged and destroyed, especially all that 
belonged to the family of the late pontiff, even those 
of the Genoese merchants, because they were his 
countrymen. In the palace of Girolamo, they found 
little of value, as all the treasures had been safely 
carried to Forli, but they tore down the marble door- 
ways, the carvings, &c, all they could not remove they 
destroyed. Catarina had a farm in the neighbourhood 
of Rome, and here they carried off hundreds of cows, 
goats, pigs, asses, geese and poultry, besides enormous 
stores of salt meat, round Parma cheeses, and casks 
of Greek wine. 

Catarina, being in possession of the citadel, Girolamo 
was able to make terms with the cardinals, and insist 
upon his arrears of pay, some 4000 ducats, and a safe 
conduct for himself and family to Forli. Before they 
had arrived there, on August 29, 1484, Cardinal Cibo 
was made Pope, under the name of Innocent VIII. 
His election had been assisted by the Riario family, 
and the Count of Forli was confirmed in all his 
possessions. But he had no longer the boundless 
341 Q 


wealth of the Holy See at his command, and with bis 
habit of reckless extravagance, especially in the way of 
building, he was soon in difficulties. Great sums were 
spent on the fine vaulting of the cathedral, as well as 
on the fortress of Ravaldino, which was strengthened 
and enlarged until it could hold 2000 men-at-arms, 
with stores for them. As time passed on there was 
growing discontent amongst the citizens and the 
cultivators of the rich alluvial fields around Forli at 
the heavy taxes which they had to pay for the mainte- 
nance of an extravagant court. 

In May 1487 Girolamo was seriously ill at lmola, 
and his wife was nursing him, when one night a 
messenger arrived from Forli with news thatCodronchi 
the seneschal of the palace, had murdered the castellan 
and seized the fortress. Calarina lost not a moment ; 
she was in the saddle at once, and, riding hard, reached 
Fort Ravaldino at midnight, and called on her senes- 
chal to account for his conduct. He answered her 
with respect, but begged her to wait till the morning 
for his answer. She had no choice but to yield, and 
at daybreak she was admitted through the gate with 
one servant. What followed within the citadel was 
never known, but the undaunted lady came forth 
safely, appointed a trusty friend, Tommaso Feo, as 
castellan, and rode off to lmola with Codronchi. 
"And the next morning, two hours after sunrise, 
Catarina gave birth to a son," says the chronicler. 

So ended this surprising adventure, and soon after- 
wards, Girolamo having quite recovered from his ill- 
ness, he returned to Forli with his wife. As the 
dissatisfaction still continued, in a despairing effort to 
win the favour of his subjects, Girolamo lightened 


their burdens of taxation, at.d the natural consequence 
was that he could not satisfy the ever-increasing 
demands of his courtiers, or pay his soldiers. A con- 
spiracy was formed against him by two captains of 
his mercenaries and two of his most pampered 
favourites at court, Lorenzo and Cecco Orsi, who 
decided on his murder, and watched their opportunity. 
One afternoon, it was April 14, 1488, they went to his 
chamber after dinner, and found him leaning against 
the cushion of the open window, which looked out on 
the Piazza. He was in excellent spirits, and, instead 
of showing annoyance at their intrusion, he turned to 
greet them with a jest. Under the usual pretext of a 
petition Lorenzo stabbed him as he raised his hand to 
receive it. Girolamo made a desperate struggle for 
his life, but he was pierced with dagger thrusts again 
and again, and then his body, half naked, was hurled 
through the window to the public square below, and 
dragged about the streets by the populace. 

The little town was already in the hands of the 
murderers ; but the fortress, which stands on high 
ground at the apex of the fan-shaped city, was in the 
faithful guard of Tommaso Feo, and commanded the 
streets, which it could sweep with its guns. On re- 
ceiving the terrible news Catarina, with marvellous 
presence of mind, at once despatched the messenger to 
her castellan Feo, bidding him send off courtiers to 
Lodovico il Moro at Milan, and to her husband's 
friend, Bentivoglio, Lord of Bologna. She was only 
just in time, for the murderers burst into her rooms 
and carried her off with her children to the Orsi 

This done, a hasty council decided to secure the 


help of the Pope by offering Forli to him ; and the 
conspirators lost no time in sending this message to 
the Cardinal Savelli, who was governor for the Church 
at Cesana, about twelve miles south of Forli. The 
cardinal was much troubled in mind, but, "not willing 
to have it said that by his default the Pope should 
suffer loss," he accepted the offer, rode off to the re- 
bellious city, and even had an interview with Catarina. 
He wisely suggested that she and her family would do 
well to seek a safe refuge in a strong chamber above 
St. Peter's gateway, under the guard of trustworthy 
citizens chosen by him. She agreed, and that night 
we are told that "twelve persons of her family and 
suite were led through the city by torchlight to their 
new prison." 

Next day, Tommaso Feo the castellan, was 
summoned to give up the citadel ; he refused, and 
Catarina was brought to the barred gate and compelled 
to repeat the order. But he knew her too well to be 
deceived, and persisted in his refusal to surrender. 
Full of rage the conspirators tried again the next day 
and at length in despair assented to the suggestion 
that the Lady of Forli should have a private interview 
with her obstinate castellan. She was admitted alone 
into the fortress on the understanding that she was 
only to remain there three hours. We may imagine 
the anxious suspense and excitement in the crowded 
streets below when the great bell on the Piazza rang 
to announce that the time was up. Summoned by a 
trumpet blast Feo appeared on the ramparts and made 
some futile remarks about his mistress and her need of 
repose j she was asleep, and he dared not wake her. 
Furious at the ruse, which they now began to suspect, 



the rebels fetched the Riario children from the gate- 
house and vowed they should instantly be put to death 
if the fortress were not surrendered. Historians differ 
as to the exact words of the haughty refusal, but 
Catarina undoubtedly dared them to do their worst, 
with a hint that children might be more easily re- 
placed than a realm, and a threat that any harm to 
them would bring a fate worse than Sodom and 
Gomorrah on the city itself. Possibly the cardinal's 
influence prevailed, for the five boys and their sister 
were taken back to the prison unhurt. 

The murder of Girolamo had taken place on 
April 14, 1488, and on the 18th a herald arrived from 
the Lord of Bologna, to demand the safety of the 
Riario family, and that Ottaviano, the eldest son of 
the murdered prince, should be proclaimed Count of 
Forli. To this Savelli made reply that the children 
were safe, and that the fief had been offered to the 
Pope. But when, two days later, there came to him a 
messenger from Milan using still stronger language, he 
became alarmed, and took a dangerous step. As no 
troops had yet come from Rome, not even a letter from 
the Pope, he resolved to forge the Bull of which he 
stood in such urgent need. This did him no service, 
and proved to be a terrible mistake on his part, for the 
peaceable Innocent VIII. was not tempted by the offer 
of this turbulent little State, and absolutely disowned 
all that had been done by his agent, who had a very 
narrow escape with his life from the later vengeance of 
Catarina. Meantime the troops of Bologna, and those 
of Milan, under young Galeazzo di Sanseverino, were 
drawing near the city walls, and on the 29th the situa- 
hopeless for the conspirators, who after an 


unsuccessful attempt on the lives of Girolamo's chil- 
dren, fled by night from the scene of their crimes. 

The magistrates went in procession to the fortress to 
offer their lady the key of the city, and the next day she 
made a triumphant entry on horseback, in company 
with the generals sent to her help : Ottaviano is pro- 
claimed count, and his mother appointed Regent, 
while the hapless Girolamo is buried with much pomp 
at lmola. 

The murderers had sent an envoy at once to Lorenzo 
dei Medici, describing their crime as due vengeance for 
the murder of his brother GiuHano, and begging tor 
his support, but they received no answer. The ruler 
of Florence was not vindictive, and he was quite willing 
to help and protect the widowed countess and her son, 
for it was his policy to encourage weak States. As soon 
as her power was established, Catarina took a cruel 
vengeance on all who had taken part against her, and 
nothing can excuse her brutality to the aged head of 
the Orsi family. 

As regent for her son, now nine years old, she ruled 
her State with vigour and ability, making a great name 
for herself, so that in France they called one of their 
most formidable pieces of artillery, " Madame de 
Forli." There is a curious little notice of Catarina in 
one of the diplomatic despatches of Cardinal Bibbiena ; 
he writes : 

"To-day there took place an interview between the 
Duke of Calabria and the divine lady of Forli. Need- 
less to say, his excellency was admirably groomed and 
attired in the height of Neapolitan fashion. His arrival 
at Bagnara was welcomed with a salute of musketry, 
and he stayed to dinner. He spent two hours with the 


countess here, bul it is patent to every one that Fee- 
has the lady well under his thumb. His excellency 
took his leave very well contented, but he was only 
moderately taken with the countess ; he told rae that 
they joined hands very gingerly . . ." 

In her exuberant energy she had also taken up the 
study of magic and medicine, and it was her strange 
taste to collect uncanny exotic recipes of every kind. 
We are told that "she spent hours in a private labora- 
tory, receiving a Jewess who had brought her a 
universal salve, or verifying formulas for a celestial 
water, a cerebrine made of the marrow of an ass, a 
magnet intended to compose family squabbles, and a 
thousand other prescriptions of like virtue." An am- 
bassador sends her a drug compounded chiefly of eggs 
and saffron, of which he writes : " 1 wish to be present 
when you test it . . . and I would not change places 
with the King of France, so happy am I in contemplat- 
ing so admirable a thing ; and besides your excellency 
would not find another man like me, for courage is 
required not to be afraid of spirits; faith to believe, and 
secresy to betray nothing." 

This princess is described to us as a magnificent 
woman, endowed with nature's most prodigal gifts ; 
tall, strong, of a good presence, and with a clear 
superb complexion ; in speech eager, impulsive, her 
voice ringing out for the most part like a trumpet call, 
but capable of alluring softness. TheGiacomo Feoof 
Savona, mentioned in the last letter, was the brother of 
her faithful castellan, and became her husband or 
lover. He was a man of great power and violence, 
"threatening constantly to sell his soul to the devil, 
and (a more serious matter) the State to the Turks, and 


Catarina was subjugated by him." " Feo became an 
odious tyrant ; denunciations, persecutions, tortures 
are his wedding gifts." As was to be expected, Feo 
(ell by the hand of the assassin, He was stabbed to 
the heart one day, under the very eyes of his sovereign, 
as they were returning together from the chase. 
Directly she saw that he was past all hope, she lost not 
an instant, but mounting her horse at once, she rode 
at the head of her guards to the quarter inhabited by 
the murderers, and there she caused to be massacred 
without distinction every living creature, even the 
women and children. Such was the savage vengeance 
of Catarina Sforza. 

Yet in times of tranquillity she showed many quali- 
ties of a wise ruler. She built various useful public 
institutions, amongst others an Academy of Fine Arts, 
and was a liberal patroness of learning. She 
generous and open-hearted, and not willingly unjust 
unless her passions were aroused, but she was a true 
despot in her government. Always in need of money, 
it occurred to her that as Imola and Forli were on the 
great Via Emiliana, it would be a lucrative thing to set 
up toll-bars at each end of her dominions. This 
brilliant scheme was not, however, a success. It 
naturally brought her into constant feuds with her 
neighbours, while the passing merchants and travellers 
found some way of evading her tolls, either by making 
a circuit round, or by crossing the rough open country 
at night. Finding it hardly paid the needful expense, 
the Madonna of Forli reluctantly gave up her toll-bars. 

At the time of her first husband's death in 1488 she 

had been left a young widow of twenty-six, with six 

children, of whom five were boys ; Giorgio Livio, 

a 4 8 


Galeazzo named after her father, and Francesco Sforza, 
being the three younger ones. 

She had many tastes and interests in common with 
her uncle Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, and she 
kept up a constant correspondence with him during 
the troubled years of her rule at Forli. He had been 
the earliest to send help to Catarina after the murder 
of her husband Riario, and continued a most useful 
ally to this warlike niece of his, in her constant feuds 
with her neighbours and her own restless subjects. 

"Were it not for the trust I place in your excellency, 
I should drown myself!" she exclaims on one oc- 

At this time she had aroused the anger of the 
Venetians by her alliance with Florence, for in the 
end she had taken to herself in 1497 another husband. 
He was the ambassador from Florence, a member of 
the younger branch of the Medici family, Giovanni, a 
man of delicate idealistic temperament, who must have 
attracted her by the very force of contrast. She gave 
to the son of this marriage the name of Lodovico, but 
this was later on changed to " Giovanni," on the death 
of her young husband, six months after the birth of 
her child. He was only thirty years of age, but he 
appears to have been for some time in delicate health* 
and he died at a little village amongst the Apennines, 
San Piero in Bagno, where he had gone to take the 

In consequence of this connection with the Medici, 
all her children were made citizens of Florence later 
on, when troubles had driven her to take refuge in 
that city. 

Catarina lost her husband in 1497, and seems to have 


mourned him deeply ; indeed, her heart was so much 
touched that she turned her thoughts seriously to 
religion. A very curious correspondence took place 
between her and Savonarola. She wrote to him in 
the full fervour of her new piety to request his prayers, 
and he replied in a gentle and dignified letter of 
mingled serenity and strength, in which he takes high 
ground in rebuking her life. This letter is dated 
June 18, 1497, the very day on which all the churches 
of Florence were thundering with the denunciation of 
the Pope against him. It shows a marvellous aloof- 
ness of soul from his own cares, that at such a time, he 
could devote thought and charity to a distant penitent 
in distress. 

As for Catarina, she was a creature of impulse ; in 
the days of her prosperity she would dance all night, 
and go on a pilgrimage the next day. In time of 
famine or plague, she would go fearlessly amongst her 
people like a genuine sister of mercy. Her wonderful 
force of mind would assert itself under the most trying 
circumstances, as when she wrote to her sons, later 
on, from the depth of her dungeon in the Castle of 
Sant' Angelo, bidding them not to be concerned 
for her. 

" I am habituated to grief ; I have no fear of it." 
After war had been declared against her, and a 
Venetian army had already invaded her dominions, 
the Duke of Milan sent a gallant soldier, Gaspare 
Sanseverino, better known as the Captain Fracassa, to 
help her with troops, and later on his eldest brother, 
the Count of Caiazzo. But even those who went to 
her assistance did not find her easy to deal with, and 
she was always appealing to the Duke. A great 


condottiere, a captain of mercenaries, who bargained 
with Kings and Emperors, could not be expected to 
take rough words meekly even from a lady, and she 
would quarrel violently with Fracassa one day, to 
make it up again the next. Then, too, with regard to 
the marriages or' her children, she gave Lodovico a 
great deal of trouble. He had suggested a bride from 
the house of Gonzaga for her eldest son ; but this she 
rejected, and suddenly bethought herself that she 
would accept the proposal of Count Caiazzo for her 
daughter Bianca. Then she changed her mind and 
said he was too old, and wrote to her uncle to ask 
him what he thought of Galeazzo di Sanseverino as a 
husband for the young girl. This was another brother 
of Fracassa, one of twelve sons of Roberto Sanseverino, 
all famous, but Galeazzo was the most distinguished 
both with his sword and his pen. But the countess 
was promptly told that the knight had no intention of 
marrying again. 

Catarina Sforza was a very capable woman, and a 
most able diplomatist ; indeed, on one occasion, she 
more than held her own against Macchiavelli himself. 
He had been deputed by the Signoria of Florence to 
enter into negotiations with the Lady of Forli. He 
was to buy guns and ammunition from her if possible, 
but the chief point was that he was to renew the engage- 
ment of Ottaviano, her eldest son, now about twenty 
years of age, as a general in the army of the Republic. 
This appointment the young man had held for a year 
past, and the salary agreed upon was to have been 
twelve thousand ducats, but as yet he had received 
nothing. Now Macchiavelli was instructed to offer a 
stipend for the coming year of ten thousand ducats, 


instead of the twelve thousand already agreed upon, 
and it is a noticeable fact that Ottaviano himself keeps 
out of the way, and leaves his mother to do the bargain- 
ing for him. 

MacchiaveEH soon discovers with whom he has 
deal, for he writes to Florence: "That words and 
reasoning will not avail much to satisfy her, unless 
some partial performance be added to them." 

In the end the ambassador is beaten all round, and 
has to pay the astute lady the full amount agreed upon. 

The days of trouble for Lodovico himself were 
fast approaching. After the death of his young wife 
Beatrice, nothing seemed to succeed with him. Now 
the King of France and Cassar Borgia and the Vene- 
tians all combined against him, and Catarina, who sent 
a troop of horse from Forli, was almost his only ally in 
Italy. His fate was sealed, and before many months 
the most magnificent prince of the whole land was 
an exile and a prisoner. But Catarina was too much 
engrossed in her great and final struggle, to have much 
thought or pity for others. The year of the Papal 
Jubilee, when thousands of pilgrims crowded to Rome, 
to seek indulgences from the hand of Alexander VI., 
was a fatal one for the Madonna of Forli. 

In the course of his career of conquest in Romagna, 
Caesar Borgia reached Forli early in January, and, after 
a desperate and heroic defence on the part of Catarina 
Sforza, the citadel fell into his hands on January 12. 
Only after forcing his way into the innermost retrench- 
ments, did he at length succeed in capturing her. 
There is a legend that the Duke of Romagna was so 
proud of his victory, that he caused his captive to be 
bound in chains of gold, like another queen of Palmyra, 




to conduct her to Rome, where he made his triumphal 
entry on February 20. We are told that she wore a 
black satin dress, and rode between Czesar Borgia and 
a French general. Pope Alexander assigned the Belve- 
dere to Catarina as her place of captivity. The city 
was full of pilgrims at that time, and amongst others 
who came that spring was ElisahettaGonzaga, Duchess 
of Urbin o. who must have been deeply touched by Vt^. 
the sad fate of the Countess of Forli, the sister of her 
brothe r Alfonso's first wife, Anna Sforza. The tuMP"" 
hearted duchess must have felt it all the more, that her 
own husband and her brother Francesco, being both 
in the service of France, must have had their share in 
the fall of this unhappy lady. 

Elisabetta had scarcely left Rome before Catarina 
received the bad news that both her uncles, Lodovico 
and Cardinal Ascanio, had fallen into the power of the 
King of France. They had retaken Milan in February 
that year, by the aid of Swiss mercenaries, but they 
were shamefully betrayed by them on April 10 before 
Novaro. Lodovico was taken to France, where he 
died after ten miserable years of captivity in the dungeon 
of Loches ; and Ascanio himself, formerly so powerful 
a Prince of the Church, was also taken a captive to 
France. It must have been a sad reflection for the 
proud woman, in her prison, that all her family were 
involved in these tragic fatalities. 

The gaolers of Catarina, the Borgia Pope and his 
son, were more to be dreaded than any other men of 
their time, and the thought of being at their mercy 
may well have been a terrible one. She must have 
lived in dread of dagger or poison, and have felt that 
only by a miracle had she escaped death. After a dis- 


astrous attempt to escape, the Pope confined her in 
the grim castle of Saint Angelo. But some French 
knights in the service of her conqueror, and especially 
Yvon d'Allegre, had the honour of saving her by a 
chivalrous protestation to the Pope, After eighteen 
months of captivity, she was permitted to take refuge 
in Florence. The following is the somewhat surprising 
letter of recommendation which he wrote to the Sig- 
noria on the occasion. 

"Roma, Juglto 13. 1501 
" Dilecti filii Salutem et ap. ben. Our dear daughter 
in J. C, the noble lady Catarina Sforza, to whom we 
have given our pardon, after having, as you know, kept 
her prisoner for valid reasons, is on her way to you. 
Having not only acted with clemency, as is our habit 
and our pastoral duty, towards the aforesaid Catarina, 
but wishing to provide for her wants with paternal 
goodness as much as we can with the help of God, we 
have thought well to write to you to recommend 
warmly to your kind offices the said Catarina ; so that, 
as she has the greatest confidence in our benevolence, 
and turns to you as to her own country, she may not 
be disappointed in the hopes which she has founded 
upon our commendations. It will, therefore, be very 
agreeable to us to learn that, as a recompense for the 
respect shown by her towards your city and from coi 
sideration for us, she has been well received and we! 
treated by you. 

" Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, under the seal 
the fisherman, on the 13th of July, the ninth year 
our pontificate. 

" Hadrianus, 1 


Thus it was that Catarina, the great Madonna of 
Forli, after her stormy and eventful life, took refuge in 
Florence. But even here she did not think herself 
safe, and more especially felt much anxiety as to the 
protection of her youngest son, the little Giovanni dei 
Medici. A curious idea occurred to her ; she dressed 
him in girl's clothes, and took him by night to the 
Annalena Convent in the Via Santa Maria, where she 
prayed the nuns to keep him under their care until the 
evil days should have passed away, and the exiled 
Medici should once again hold their own. The good 
sisters were delighted to receive the little boy, and pro- 
mised to keep the secret. 

It was a remarkable episode in the early history of 
this distinguished warrior, the last and greatest of the 
condottieri of Italy, who was to be so famous in the 
military history of his time. When quite young, he 
began to serve as a soldier under Leo X., and was sub- 
sequently appointed Captain of the Republic when he 
gained the name of " Invitto" (the Invincible). It was 
under his training that the infantry first began to 
acquire fame. While in Lombardy fighting against the 
Spaniards, he was mortally wounded near Mantua, and 
carried through the falling snow to the house of Lodo- 
vico Gonzaga. We have a very touching account of 
his death, at the age of twenty-nine. " Love me when 
I am dead," he said to the Duke Federigo, who replied 
in broken accents, " I will indeed." 

" En verite, c'etait un grand homrae de guerre," 
wrote the French ambassador. The soldiers who 
fought under Giovanni were so devoted to him, that 
they never laid aside the mourning which they put on 
at his death ; and from their black garments, the name 


of their leader remained famous in history as " Giovanni 
delle Bande Nere," He was the founder of a noble 
line, for his son Cosimo was the first Grand Duke of 

Catarina never lived to see the fortunes of her house 
revive. She found a shelter in the Convent of Santa 
Maria delle Muriate, where she spent the few remain- 
ing years of her life, and died in the year 1509. But 
it is in the ancient town of Forli that her memory is 
most truly enshrined. In the secluded church of San 
Biagio, half forgotten in its moss-grown corner, the 
frescoes of Palmazzano still show us Catarina painted 
as the Madonna, and adored by all the Riario family. 
There, too, as we turn from the broad piazza, with its 
lovely campanile of San Mercuriale, and pass up the 
long arcaded street, we see before us, rising grim and 
threatening, the fortress of Ravaldino, and call lo mind 
that stirring chronicler, how the Madonna of Forli won 
her fame. 


The very name is a term of reproach, nay even of 
opprobrium, to many who read it ; only suited to point 
a moral, in hateful contrast to the famous Lucrezia of 
old. But the researches of modern historians have 
done more than cast doubt upon the evil legend which 
has haunted this unfortunate lady through the ages. 
Countless letters and documents of the period have 
been hunted out from the dusty recesses of old 
libraries ; family archives have been diligently searched, 
and the result has been to avenge the memory of this 
much maligned princess. Those who would seriously 
study the proofs advanced will find them in the pages 
of Roscoe, and more fully in the exhaustive "justifica- 
tion " of the historian, Gregorovius, made more impres- 
sive by sixty-five original documents of the time. 

The Borgias were so justly hated in their own day, 
that their enemies were not satisfied with holding up 
to public execration Pope Alexander VI. and his son 
Caesar, as monsters in human form, but they included 
in the same condemnation every member of the 
abhorred race. This at least we know, that when 
Lucrezia escaped from the poisonous atmosphere of 
the papal court, and became Duchess of Ferrara, she 
257 * 

lived a dignified and blameless life for more than twenty 
years, winning the esteem and respect of all. On her 
marriage with Alfonso d'Este, Ariosto pays her the 
tribute of "rivalling in the decorum of her manners 
as in the beauty of her person, all that former times 
could boast." 

After this brief introduction, we will turn to the 
known facts of her eventful life. She was born April 
18, 1480. Her father, Cardinal Borgia, was to become 
Pope Alexander VI. twelve years later, and her mother 
was a Roman woman of great beauty, Vanozza Catanei, 
who had already two sons of his, Giovanni and Csesar. 
For some years these children were together in their 
mother's house, and the company of these two elder 
Borgia brothers cannot have been good for the cha- 
racter of little Lucrezia, She was probably their meek 
slave, for in after days she never seems to have greatly 
asserted herself, or to have had much voice in the 
mapping out of her life. The little girl seems to have 
been carefully brought up with the classical training of 
the day, and special attention was paid to her religious 
knowledge, whatever moral value that may have had. 
At this point, it is interesting to note that in the Cata- 
logue of seventeen books which she took to Ferrara,at 
least eight were breviaries and religious works, besides 
a Dante, a Petrarch, and some books on Philosophy. 

At twelve years old we are told, "she speaks 
Spanish, Greek, Italian, French, and a little Latin also, 
very purely ; she writes and composes poetry in all 
these languages." Several hundreds of her letters have 
been preserved, some in Spanish, but mostly in Italian, 
written in a very natural and easy style, full of liveli- 
ness and feeling, but without much depth. She was 


quite young when she left her mother's house, and was 
placed under the care of Madonna Adriana Orsini, a 
connection of Cardinal Borgia, and a great lady of 
position and influence, and with her Lucrezia must 
have learnt to take her place in society. She is 
described as being a beautiful girl, with golden hair, 
well-formed features, laughing blue eyes and a very 
fair complexion. 

Before her father became Pope, he had arranged for 
her betrothal with a Spanish grandee of an ancient and 
noble house, Don Cherubin Juan de Centelles. But 
the project was never realised, for, on his promotion 
to the Chair of St. Peter a year later, he set his heart 
upon a more brilliant alliance ; nothing short of a 
prince would content him, and Giovanni Sforza, Lord 
of Pesaro, was selected as his son-in-law. He had 
married Maddelena, the younger sister of EHsabetta, 
Duchess of Urbino, but she had died the following 
year, and he gladly accepted the hand of Lucrezia. 
There^was some trouble with the young Spaniard, but 
the masterful Alexander had his way. The marriage 
was celebrated with great magnificence, and the bride 
had a dowry of 31,000 ducats, and presents of immense 
value. She already had a palace in Rome, where she 
spent much time with her husband, and Madonna 
Adriana lived with her as dame of honour ; also the 
daughter-in-law of this lady, Julia Farnese, whose 
intrigue with the Pope was of common notoriety. In 
a letter of that date we have a curious account of a visit 
to this palace of " Santa Maria in Fgrijcu," where the 
three ladies were found sitting round the fire in the 
greatest intimacy. They were dressed in velvet and 
fur, but Julia had recently washed her magnificent 


hair, which fell round her to the ground, and Pucci 
adds : " shone like the sun." Can we conceive any 
more evil society for an impressionable girl of four- 
teen ? 

Meantime her husband was in great difficulties, for 
there was every appearance of war between the Pope 
and the Duchy of Milan, and he was in the pay of both. 
There was a clause in his marriage contract, authorising 
him to take his wife with him to Pesaro, and he 
availed himself of this, taking with him Madonna 
Adriana, Julia Farnese, and also Vanozza, as the Pope 
was afraid of the plague for them. A few months later, 
a curious adventure befell two of these ladies. In 
travelling from their Castle of Capodimonte to Viterbo 
with a suite of twenty-five horsemen, they were taken 
prisoners by a French troop, under Monseigneur 
d'AUegre. The Pope had to pay a ransom of 3000 
ducats to redeem them, and all Europe smiled at the 
story. Pesaro is situated in a broad valley open to the 
sea, and protected by an amphitheatre of hills, an ideal 
situation on the shore of the Adriatic, the very garden 
of Italy. But it was in a torrent of rain which blotted 
out the landscape, that Lucrezia arrived to take posses- 
sion of the ancient Sforza palace, which was to be her 
home for so short a time. It must have seemed to her 
like escaping from a prison, to live in this lovely spot, 
with the Apennines to separate her from her father 
and brother. For the summer she had several 
country resorts, but the most beautiful was the 
palace on Mount Accio, with splendid views over 
land and sea, and grounds like the gardens of Armida. 
If the young wife had been happy in her marriage, 
she would have been like some queen of Arcadia, 


but she had been simply a docile victim in the 
hands of her relations, tossed as a prize to the highest 

In this brief space it is impossible to trace out 
the complicated politics and wars of Italy, and we can 
only follow the fortunes of Lucrezia, who found her- 
self the next year recalled to Rome, and established in 
the midst of the brilliant and licentious court of the 
Borgia Pope. The Sforza alliance was no longer of 
any use to hira, and, with his usual unscrupulous am- 
bition, he decided to find his daughter another hus- 
band. It is said that Giovanni would have fallen a 
victim to the dagger or poison, had not his wife sent 
him an urgent warning, on which he made his escape, 
riding in all haste to Pesaro, where his horse fell dead 
under him. She does not seem to have cared much 
for him, but she opposed the divorce which followed, 
without success, for her father and brother had absolute 
power in their hands. But she so far asserted herself 
as to leave her sumptuous palace and take refuge, for a 
time, in the convent of nuns of San Sisto, on the 
Appian Way. It was while she was in this cloistral 
retreat that she received the terrible news of her 
brother, the Duke of Gandia, having been murdered 
in the streets of Rome, and public report accused 
C.'csir Borgia of the foul crime. 

Close upon this followed the scandalous lawsuit 
in which the Borgias declared the marriage with 
Giovanni Sforza annulled, on June 10, 1493 ; and the 
shameful reports with regard to poor Lucrezia 
appear to have had their origin about this time. 
The Pope had already found another husband for 
her, Alfonso, Duke of Bisaglia, nephew of the King 


of Naples, whose daughter was greatly desired as ; 
wife for Cresar Borgia. 

The unfortunate Alfonso, who was only seventeen, 
must have felt himself a sacrifice to the family ambi- 
tion ; he came to Rome sadly and unwillingly, and 
the marriage was celebrated at the Vatican, with the 
old custom of a knight holding a naked sword over 
the head of bride and bridegroom — a meet emblem 
of the troubles in store for then both. The Pope 
had bestowed on his daughter a dowry of 40,000 
ducats, the duchy of Spoleto and the territory of 
Sermoneta. But he was much disappointed at the 
refusal of the hand of the Princess Carlotta of Naples 
for his son, and joined with Louis XII., who had 
designs on the throne of Naples. Some time after 
this, Alfonso, warned by a friend, thought it wise to 
escape from the fatal shadow of the Vatican, to the 
great indignation of Alexander, and the sorrow of his 
wife, who had become much attached to the amiable 
and handsome young man, and persuaded him to 
return to Rome. Her son was born three months 
later, and was baptized with great pomp in the Sistine 
Chapel, borne in state by the captain of the papal 
guards, and accompanied by all the ambassadors and 

Once more Lucrezia had a short time of peace and 
happiness, and her palace became a centre of artistic 
and intellectual society. Young Michelangelo had 
recently come to Rome, and attracted much interest ; 
he was at that time working at his wonderful Pieta, 
which Lucrezia must often have seen. We have very 
full details of all that happened at Rome during this 
period, in the private Journal of Burchard, the papal 


master of the ceremonies, who, like our Pepys, never 
allowed his contemporaries to see his writings. In- 
deed, had he done so, it would certainly have cost him 
his head ; as it was, he continued to write every day, 
his short dry account of all he saw, under the rule of 
five Popes. 

Alexander VI. had a narrow escape of his life in the 
month of June 1500, when a chimney fell in the 
Vatican, but he was rescued from the ruins only 
slightly hurt. He would suffer no one to nurse him 
but his daughter, and ascribing his escape to the 
special protection of the Virgin, he went in a proces- 
sion to Santa Maria del Popolo, with rich offerings. 
As Gregorovius remarks, the Saints of Paradise may 
have interposed to save a great sinner, but they suffered 
an innocent man to be murdered only eighteen days 
afterwards. One evening, Alfonso was mounting the 
steps to meet his wife, when he was set upon by a 
band of men in masks and stabbed. He had just 
strength to rush into the Pope's apartment, where at 
the sight of her husband covered vith blood, Lucrezia 
fell fainting to the ground. Alfonso was carried into 
a chamber in the Vatican, and a cardinal gave him 
absolution. But he was tenderly cared for by his wife 
and did not die, indeed he was on the way to recovery 
when Cassar Borgia burst into the sick-room, with a 
bravo who finished the bloody deed. 

Never was a crime sooner forgotten. The whole 
affair was hushed up, no steps were taken to punish 
the murderer, and only poor Lucrezia had to bear her 
burden of grief, in that most terrible moment of her 
life. The sight of her tears was distasteful to her 
father and brother, and they readily assented to her 


leaving Rome (or a time. At the end of August, with 
an escort of six hundred horsemen, she set out for the 
old Etruscan town of Nepi, of which she was sovereign. 
The grim medieval castle stands on a height in the 
Campania, in the midst of a sombre and melancholy 
landscape, like all that volcanic country. A vast 
panorama spreads out before the eyes, the wooded 
hills of Viterbo, Mount Soracte, like an island in the 
middle of the sea, and to the north, the broad valley of 
the Tiber, bounded through a misty haze by the blue 
mountains of the Sabine. 

The young widow of Alfonso took a portion of the 
court with her, and her little son Roderigo ; but it was 
a time of strict mourning, and there was nothing to 
distract her mind from her grief. There are a few 
letters preserved which she wrote at this time, signed, 
"La principessa infelicissima de Salerno." They 
chiefly treat of domestic affairs and the mourning 
clothes which she needs for herself and for little 
Roderigo, and for black hangings to her bed. But 
more than once she writes to her faithful servant in 
Rome, bidding him have prayers said in all the 
monasteries. " Fa far nove orationi per tutti li monas- 
terii per queste nox'e mie tribulationl" 

She writes again on October 30 : 

"Vicenzo. Having decided to cause a com- 
memorative service to be celebrated for the soul of the 
lord duke, my husband, — santa gloria habia, — you will 
see to it. 

" From the castle of Nepi. La infelissima." 
" Sia data in mano de Vicenzo Giordano." 



There can be no doubt that she sincerely grieved 
for the loss of her young husband, but before the end 
of the year we find her longing to return to Rome, and, 
twelve months later, the disconsolate widow was to 
all appearance gay and iighthearted as ever. It was 
true that her father left her no time for regrets, as he 
had already another marriage in view. He had set his 
heart on another Alfonso, the eldest son of the Duke 
of Ferrara, as by such an alliance he hoped not only 
to win over Ferrara to the cause of Caesar Borgia, but 
also the allied houses of Mantua and Urbino. His 
first proposal was absolutely rejected by Ercole d'Este, 
and received with horror by his daughter Isabella 
d'Este, and the Duchess of Urbino, her sister-in- 

Nothing daunted, the wily Pope continued to press 
the matter, feeling certain of ultimate success. After 
a time, more pressure was brought to bear upon 
Ercole by the King of France, and these humiliating 
negotiations for Lucrezia proceeded slowly. In June 
1501, the Pope joined the army at Sermoneto, and 
actually installed his daughter in his own place at the 
Vatican, and Burchard writes in his Diary: "His 
Holiness before leaving the city, confided all the palace 
and the care of current affairs to Donna Lucrezia 
Borgia, his daughter, and his Holiness has given her 
full power to open all the letters which arrive. . . ." 

What a scene at the Vatican 1 This young woman, 
the Pope's own daughter, presiding at the consistory, 
composed of cardinals 1 This one fact speaks for 
itself more than a thousand satires. It seems that 
Alexander had at last received the longed-for consent 
of Duke Ercole, and he may have thought to give her 


: assured standing by raising her to this high 
position as a political personage. 

There had been great difficulty in overcoming the 
repugnance of Alfonso himself to the proposed mar- 
riage, although his first wife, Anna Sforza, had died 
four years before, and had left him no son and heir. 
That Lucrezia was illegitimate does not seem to have 
been of most serious account ; the sumptuous Re- 
naissance was a golden age for children who had no 
legal right to be born. The young d'Este had but to 
look in his own family — at his grandfather, King Fer- 
rante of Naples, of the proud house of Arragon, at his 
two uncles, Leonello and Borso d'Este, the late reign- 
ing Dukes of Ferrara — who were all of the " bar 
sinister." There must have been a dark shadow of 
sacrilege resting on this daughter of the Pope, but 
through it glimmered dim suggestions of unique 
advancement, for who of all the princes of Europe 
could offer so splendid a dowry ? 

As to the lady herself, it was singularly unfortunate 
that at the age of twenty-one she should already have 
been twice betrothed, twice married, and twice de- 
prived of a husband under criminal circumstances, of 
which she had been the too passive spectator. She 
had lived in the licentious atmosphere of the papal 
court, she was sister of the infamous C;esar Borgia, 
the " Prince " of Macchiavelli, scandalous reports had 
spread with regard to her, but nothing had been 
proved — it was all si dice. Most anxious inquiries 
were made about her character, and a special envoy 
wrote to Duke Ercole that "there was nothing sinister 
about her." He also spoke of Madonna Lucrezia as 
" sensible, discreet, of good and loving nature . . . 


her manners full of modesty and decorum ; a good 
Christian filled with the fear of God ... in truth, 
such are her good qualities that I rest assured there is 
nothing to fear from her, nay, rather everything to 
hope from her." 

The Duke of Ferrara was quite won over by the 
immense advantages offered to his State ; and as his 
son still hesitated, he used the final argument that he 
would marry Lucrezia himself if Alfonso remained 
obstinate. When at last the consent of the bridegroom 
was obtained, Duke Ercole took a purely business view 
of the matter, and determined to sell the honour of his 
house at the highest possible price. It is curious to 
note at this point, that in the long negotiations which 
followed, his future daughter-in-law was his best 
ally. Always at the elbow of the Pope when he 
received one exorbitant demand after another, she 
persuaded him in the end to agree to everything, 
although he was much enraged with all this hag- 
gling, and exclaimed: "Che il procedere del duca 
era un procedere da mercatante." Ercole wrote her 
several most friendly letters to thank her for her 
valuable help, but in truth she was herself intensely 
eager for the marriage. 

Surely it speaks well for Lucrezia that she should so 
ardently desire to escape from the polluted air of Rome, 
from her fatal past ; and to have a fresh start, with the 
chance of an honourable and peaceful life. She seems 
to have been strangely unconscious of any personal 
humiliation in being thus pressed upon an unwilling 
husband ; no troubles could quench her gay, light- 
hearted, childish nature, and when the marriage was at 
last publicly proclaimed in Rome, she showed her joy 


UJCKBZ] i r :t ;; = 

A splendid rcti—e was sent from Fcrnn to fetch 
the bride, comp o s ed of rdamoas and mends and 
vassals of the house of Este ; the great lords leading 
the way, splendidly dressed, with massi ve gold chains 
round the neck, and preceded by thirteen trumpeters 
and eight hautboys. This nuptial cavalcade consisted 
of about fire hundred persons, under the command of 
the light-hearted young Cardinal Ippolyto d'Este, who 
thus gaily crossed the plains of Italy, living at the 
expense of the cities through which they passed. Tbe 
journey took thirteen days ; it was during the depth 
of winter, and when they reached Monterosi, fifteen 
miles from Rome, they were sadly weather-beaten, wet 
through, and covered with mud. The cardinal sent 
forward a trumpeter to take the orders of the Pope, 
with the result that the grand entry into the city, by the 
Portend Popolo, was fixed for the next day. After a 
state reception by the people, the cardinals, and the 
Pope ; the princes of Ferrara were introduced 
Lucrczia, who came to meet them as far as the s 


case of her palace. She wore a dress of white cloth 
brocaded with gold, with closely-fitting sleeves of gold 
brocade, a necklace of pearls, and a mantle of brown 
velvet trimmed with marten. " A charming and 
gracious lady," was the general verdict ; and Cardinal 
Ippolyto wrote a long letter that evening to his sister 
Isabella at Mantua, giving a very pleasing account of 
his new sister-in-law. 

He had brought a costly present of jewels, which he 
presented himself ; and although the marriage had 
already been concluded by procuration at Ferrara, 
this formality was repeated at the Vatican, and his 
brother Ferrante placed the ring, in the name of 
Alfonso, on the bride's finger. On this occasion she 
wore a gown of gold brocade and crimson velvet, 
trimmed with ermine, the sleeves reaching to the 
ground, and her long train borne by her ladies of 
honour. Her fair hair was tied with a black ribbon, 
she wore a coif of some golden material, and priceless 

There were great festivities every day — a bull-tight 
in the Piazza San Pietro, endless theatrical representa- 
tions and state balls, in which Lucrezia's dancing was 
much admired. At length, on the 6th of January, she 
set forth on her journey to cross Italy like a queen, 
with so magnificent a procession as the world has 
rarely seen. A number of chariots and 150 mules 
laden with her trousseau had been sent on beforehand, 
and she took with her "everything she desired, and 
there was to be no inventory kept." The immense 
retinue with which she travelled made up almost a 
thousand persons, and amongst these were 180 of 
her own special Court, including Madonna Adrian a 


■ other ladies, and Caesar Borgia had t 
an escort o( honour of 200 noble cavaliers, with a choir 
of musicians and jesters to entertain his sister on the 

The Pope had carefully mapped out the whole 
route, and sent special orders that everywhere his 
daughter was to be received with triumphal arches, 
illuminations, and solemn preparations. She was to 
go by Castelnovo, Civita Castellana, Narni, Terni, 
Spolete, Foligno. Here the Duchess of Urbino was 
to meet Lucrezia, and had promised to accompany her 
as far as Ferrara, They would cross the States of 
Caesar through Pesaro, Nimini, C esena, Forli, Faenza, 
and Imola, to arrive at Bologna, from thence by the 
river Po to Ferrara, a long and tedious journey at that 
period, when the roads made it necessary to travel 
chiefly on horseback, and when we remember what 
even an Italian winter can be. 

Even this light-hearted young woman, in the hour 
of her triumph, must have had some sad leave-taking. 
She was parting with her little boy, Roderigo, whom 
she was never to see again, for the young Duke of 
Bisaglio died at Bari a few years later. She may have 
~ saicTaTast good-bye to Vanozza, but her name is never 
mentioned at this period. When her father had taken 
leave of her at the Vatican, he moved from one window 
to another to have a last view of her, until the caval- 
cade had quite passed out of sight. All the cardinals, 
the ambassadors, and the magistrates of Rome accom- 
panied the bride to the Pottp_jJel Popolo. She 
rode a splendid white horse with a golden bridle 
and her travelling garb was of red silk trimmed 
with ermine, and a plumed hat. Thus she turned 


away from her stormy past to enter upon a new 

The journey was tedious rather than eventful, 
although the new duchess was received everywhere 
with great honour, as though she were a royal person- 
age. On the seventh day she arrived at Foligno, where, 
amongst other pleasing masques, was a triumphal car, 
from which Paris declared that he had made a mis- 
take in giving Venus the golden apple, and that he 
now presented it to the lady who excelled all the three 
goddesses, with beauty ,|wisdom, and power combined. 
On the outskirts of Gubbio, a remote little town on 
the western slope of the Apennines, Lucrezia was met 
by the Duchess Elisabetta, who conducted her in state 
up the steep road to her splendid palace on the grey 
hillside. It must have been a supreme effort on the 
part of this great lady to receive with any show of 
friendship the woman who had first married the 
' widower of her young sister, Maddelena, and had then 
divorced him with public scandal. Yet nothing was 
lacking to the princely courtesy of her welcome at 
Gubbio and again at Urbino two days later, when 
Duke Guidobaldo and all his court came down the hill 
to meet her and escorted her to the palace, while he 
and the duchess lodged elsewhere. The Montefeltro 
may have hoped that the influence of Lucrezia would 
secure the safety of Urbino, and could never foresee 
that only a few months later the vile perfidy of her 
brother, Cassar Borgia, would drive them from their 

After a day's rest, the two duchesses continued 
their journey over the mountain pass, and arrived 
late at night at Pesaro, which now belonged to 


Caesar, and Lucrezia was accompanied by a train i 
children with olive branches to the very home of her 
first married life. We cannot imagine anything more 
painful for her than the thought of those days, and of 
Giovanni Sforza still burning for revenge ; but our 
deepest pity would be for the tender-hearted Elisabetta, 
for whom these walls would be haunted by sad memories 
of her young sister's wedding, so soon to be followed 
by her death. It must have been a relief to both ladies 
to continue their journey. Passing through Forli and 
Faenza on Friday they reached Imola, where Lucrezia 
declared that she must rest a day to wash her head. 
Probably that golden hair required a great deal of 
attention. On reaching Bologna, she was very glad 
to take the easier route by water, and on the last day 
of January she arrived at Castel Bentivoglio, where 
she was agreeably surprised by an impromptu visit in 
disguise from Alfonso, her husband. She received 
him with "much deference and grace," and he made 
a gallant response during the short interview. The 
Pope was delighted to hear of this little episode from 
his daughter, who wrote to him every day. He had 
felt great anxiety as to her reception by the Este 
family, and this news set his fears at rest. 

The next day, at Malalbergo, Lucrezia met Isabella 
Marchesa of Mantua, who had required much per- 
suasion from her father to induce her to do the 
honours of the state reception. But she acted her 
part graciously, and greeted her new sister-in-law with 
a kiss. At Torre della Fossa the Duke Ercole, with his 
son Alfonso and all the Court, awaited their coming, 
and received them on a gorgeous bucentatir, where 
the ambassadors and others were presented tj the 


bride. At Ferrara itself the r 

i for her arrival 

s preparations f 
were on a scale of royal prodigality, and the solemn 
entry was one of the most brilliant spectacles of the 
age. It was the great moment of her life. 

We have a very full account of the magnificent pro- 
cession — the archers, the trumpeters, the bishops, the 
cavaliers, the ambassadors, those of Rome in long 
cloth -of -go Id mantles lined with crimson satin. The 
scene must have been one dazzling mass of colour. 
Alfonso wore red velvet and a black velvet cap with a 
beaten-gold ornament. His brown horse was covered 
with trappings of crimson velvet and gold. As for 
the bride, we are told she was sparkling with beauty 
and joy. She wore a "camorra" of black velvet 
with wide sleeves and delicate fringes of gold, and 
a "sbernia" of gold brocade trimmed with ermine. 
Her head was covered with a net shining with gold 
and diamonds, and round her neck was a chain of 
great pearls and rubies, which Isabella remembered 
with a sigh, having seen them worn by her mother. 
Her beautiful hair fell freely over her shoulders. A 
purple baldachino was carried over her head by the 
doctors of law, of medicine, and of mathematics, in 
turn. Behind her rode the duke, her father-in-law, in 
rich black velvet. 

When Lucrezia reached the palace, she was greeted 
at the foot of the great staircase by Isabella d'Este ; it 
was already late, and the great halls were lighted with 
torches and candelabra. The bride and bridegroom 
were conducted with music to the reception room, 
where they took their places on a throne. The court 
was presented to them, and then the pompous wedding 
oration was recited. Amongst the poets who paid 
273 a 


homage to the newly-wedded pair was a rising genius 
of whom great things were expected. Ariosto had com- 
posed a Latin epithalamium in the bride's honour, of 
which these lines will give an idea : 

Est levis haec jactura tamen, mat hoc quoqiie quicquid 
Est reliquum, juvet et nudis habitare sub antris, 
Vivere dum licet tecum pulcherrima virgg. 

These words must have been received with a smile 
those who understood them. 

Lucrezia appears to have made a most favourable 
impression, not so much from her beauty as by a 
certain undefinable charm of person and manner, which 
won over even those who had been most hostile to her 
coming. Her constant brightness and sunny good 
humour must have been very attractive. There is a 
t hint of jealousy in some of the letters of Isabella 
d'Este ; possibly this " prima donna del mondo " could 
not brook a rival so near the throne, and also she may 
have looked with wistful eyes at the slight graceful figure 
of the bride, for she herself was always afraid of grow- 
ing stout. There is no very satisfactory portrait extant 
of Lucrezia, but this is the description of her appear- 
ance by a contemporary : " Di mediocre statura, gracile 
in aspetto, si faccia alquanto lunga, il naso profilato 
bello, li capelli aurei, gliocchi bianchi, la bocca alquanto 
grande con li denti candid issirna^ la gola schietta e 
bianca oenata con decente valore, ed in essere, con- 
tinuamenteallegria eridente." 

Alfonso d'Este's secretary, Bonaventura Pistofilo 
writes of her : "Tu essa Lucrezia di venusto e man- 
sueto aspetto, prudente, di gratissime maniere negli atti, 
e nel parlare di molto grazia e allegrezza." 

The wedding festivities lasted for six days, and 



have the most minute description of every masque and 
comedy, of every opera and dance, of priceless gifts 
and dazzling costumes. One day Lucrezia wore a robe 
of woven gold and a chain of the most precious gems ; 
then she next appeared in one of black satin and gold 
foliage, with flowing sleeves, with a hem similar to a 
flame of gold ; and of another dress we are told it had 
cost fifteen thousand ducats. As to the wonderful 
performances she witnessed, we can only imagine, as 
her biographer remarks, that we are transported into 
Shakespeare's " Midsummer Night's Dream," and that 
Theseus Duke of Athens is before us in the person of 
Ercole Duke of Ferrara. He certainly had a mar- 
vellous gift in the way of entertainments, even for those 
sumptuous days of the Renaissance. 

After all these gay doings there followed a period of 
retirement and economy, which must have been rather 
trying to the bride, but she quietly felt her way and won 
golden opinions from all around her. She had strong 
proof of this before the end of the year, when she was 
very ill after the birth of a daughter, and received the 
greatest kindness and devotion. But a terrible blow 
awaited her the following autumn, nothing less than the 
sudden death of Pope Alexander and the consequent 
ruin of Caesar Borgia's ambitious projects. Poor 
Lucrezia must have been overwhelmed with grief and 
despair, for she cannot have closed her ears to the 
chorus of malediction which rose up from all Italy, and 
must have known on what a slender thread hung her 
position and hope of happiness. But in point of fact, 
she was securely established at Ferrara, and does not 
seem to have lost respect and consideration after the 
death of her father. She was even able to give some 


help to Caesar, whose failing fortunes she watched witr 
anxious interest. 

Early in 1505, after the death of her father-in-law, 
she became really Duchess of Ferrara, and availed 
herself to the full of her new advantages. She became 
the very centre of the intellectual life of Ferrara, and 
her court was frequented by all the poets and learned 
men of the day. Endless sonnets and epigrams were 
written in her honour, comparing her to every goddess of 
antiquity, and praising her beauty and virtue in no mea- 
sured terms. Ariosto, in the " Orlando Furioso," places 
her in the temple of famous women, above the Lucrezia 
of old, in beauty and chastity. In some instances the 
language of adulation took a more tender form, as in 
the letters of Bembo, the distinguished Venetian ; but 
of these we must form a judgment by the standard of 
that day. The young duchess had not Isabella's great 
love for painting and sculpture, or the same eager desire 
for collecting works of art, but she was a liberal patron 
to the artists who painted the Este palace walls. 

Her husband Alfonso had but little taste for litera- 
ture or for courtly show. He was a wise ruler and a 
good soldier, and served Ferrara well during the stormy 
times which followed his father's death. As often as 
he had a little leisure from his fortifications and diplo- 
macy, he spent it in painting china vases. When he 
had to take the field against the fighting Pope Julius, or 
against Venice, he always left his wife as regent of 
Ferrara, and she showed herself thoroughly worthy of 
his confidence. On one occasion when the Jews had 
been persecuted in the city, she proclaimed an edict to 
protect them, and caused those who were guilty of the 
outrages to be severely punished. She was greatly 


beloved by the people, towards whom she behaved 
with much generosity ; for more than once, in time of 
famine, or misery caused by war, she pawned her jewels 
to help them. But we realiy hear very little about the 
latter half of her life, for the chroniclers of the period 
only mention her to record the birth of her children. 
The heir to the duchy was not born until 1508, and he 
received the name of Ercole, from his grandfather. 
There were two other sons, Ippolytus, afterwards the 
Cardinal d'Este, remembered by his villa at Tivoli,and 
Francesco, Marquis of Massalombarda. Her daughter 
Leonora became a nun at the convent of Corpus 
Domini, where she herself spent so much of her later 

In her peaceful and dignified career at Ferrara she 
had yet her fair share of trouble. The captivity and 
death of her brother C;esar Borgia, killed while fighting 
for his brother-in-law of Navarre, at the age of thirty- 
one, was a great blow to her ; then the fatal love 
affair with her beautiful maid-of-honour Angela, which 
brought ruin on the two brothers of her husband ; the 
death in 1508 of her eldest son Roderigo, whose 
varied fortunes she had followed from afar with loving 
eyes, and, ten years later, the loss of her mother 
Vanozza, her last link with the past. 

As time went on, she devoted herself more and more 
tore!igiousduties,andworksof charity. As Paolo Giovio > 
tells us, she renounced the pomps and vanities of the 
world, to which she had been accustomed from her 
childhood ; she founded convents and hospitals, and 
was a mother to the sick, the poor, and the destitute. 
We have another interesting record of Lucrezia from 
the biographer of the famous Bayard, the " chevalier 


sans peur et sans reproche," who was received by hei 
at Ferrara. 

" La bonne duchesse, qui 6tait une perle de ce monde, 
fit aux Fran9ais un merveilleux accueil et tous leur 
jours leur faisait festins et bancquets a la mode D'ytalie 
tant beaux que merveilles. Bien ose dire que de son 
temps, ne devant ne s'est trouve de plus triomphante 
princesse, car elle etait belle, bonne, deuce et courtoise 
a toutes gens, et rien n'est plus siir que, quoique son 
mari tut un prince sage et vaillant, ladite dame lui a 
rendu de bons et grands services par sa gracieusete." 

Other homage was not wanting, on every side. 
Caviceo even sought to flatter the splendid Isabella 
d'Este, by offering her, as his highest praise, that " she 
closely approached the perfection of Lucrezia." The 
relations between these two great ladies had been very 
friendly, and on the death of Francesco of Mantua, I 
Duchess of Ferrara wrote to his widow to express I 

"Illustrious Signora, my sister-in-law and raw 
honoured sister, — The cruel loss of your most illustrioi 
husband of happy memory has caused me so much g 
and sorrow that I have too much need of consolatii 
myself to offer any to your excellency, for whom t] 
great loss must be so bitter an affliction. I share t 
regrets with which this misfortune overwhelms i 
excellency, and I cannot succeed in expressing I 
much it touches and afflicts me." . . . She adds a 
words about submission to the will of God, and s 
herself, " Your sister-in-law, Lucrezia, Du 
Ferrara. The last day of March 1519." 


She herself only lived a few months longer. On 
June 14 she had a child, born dead. In expectation of 
her approaching end she dictated a letter to Pope 
Leo X., which, written in sight of death, reveals to us 
the deepest feelings of her soul. 

" Sanctissimo Patre et Beatissimo Signor mio Colen- 
dissimo, — With all possible reverence of soul, I kiss the 
feet of your Holiness, and humbly recommend myself 
to ' La sua Santa gratia.' ... So great is the favour 
granted to me by my merciful Creator, that I know 
the end of my life approaches, and in a few hours I 
shall have gone hence, having first received all the 
Holy Sacraments of the Church. And at this point, I 
am reminded as a Christian, though a sinner, to suppli- 
cate your Holiness to bestow from your spiritual 
treasures, some comfort to my soul with your holy 
benediction, and this I devoutly pray. And to your 
holy grace, 1 recommend il Signor Consorte, and my 
children, all servants of your Holiness. 

" De Vostra Beatitudine, 
" Humil Serva, 


" Ferrara, the 12th June 1519, at the 24th hour." 

Two days later she passed away, to the deep and 
lasting grief of her husband, who had never left her 
side. She was buried in the Convent of the Sisters of 
Corpus Christi, in the same tomb as the mother of 
Alfonso, the Duchess Leonora of blessed memory. The 
whole city mourned for her, and instances of her good- 
ness and piety were on every tongue. 

But the poor duchess was unfortunate in that her 


good deeds were soon forgotten, while the evil traditions [ 
of her vouth survived, and were carried down alone to 
posterity. The study of celebrated characters of former 
days must always be a most difficult problem. If we 
are often mistaken about our own contemporaries, how 
much more likely are we to form a wrong judgment 
with regard to those who are only shadows from the 
past ? 

If her latest great biographer, Gregorovius, has suc- 
ceeded in dethroning Lucrezia Borgia from the pedestal 
of wickedness where legend had placed her by the side 
of Phaedra, Medea and Clytemnestra, this unhappy 
lady still remains an essentially tragic figure. Every- 
thing was against her ; her birth, her early training, 
her surroundings, the evil character of her nearest 
relations, who merely used her as a tool for their 
ambition. And, even when she had weathered the 
storm and left Rome for ever to live for more than 
twenty years, not merely blameless, but honoured and 
beloved in her new home, — it was the very irony of 
fate that she should still be held up through the 
centuries, as the type of infamy for novelist, historian, 
and dramatist. 

But the last word has not yet been spoken. The 
character of Lucrezia Borgia still awaits the final 
verdict of a broader knowledge. 


Vittoria h 1 Dame ; eben conviensi a nata 
Frale vittorie, ed a chi, o vada, o staasi, 
Die trofei sempre, e di trionfi oraata, 
La Vittoria abbia seco, o dietro, o innanzi. 
Questa 6 uo'altra Artemisia, che lodata 
Fu J] pieta verso il suo Mausolo; anzi 
Tanto maggior, cjuanto 6 piii asaai bell' opra 
Che por sotterra un uom, trarlo di sopra. 

Orl. xxxvii. i8. Ariosto. 

The very name is music in our ears, and calls up the 
image of a gracious presence, which is perhaps better 
known than that of any other lady of the Renaissance. 
Princess and poetess, she combined the learning of 
her day with the religious mysticism of a later age, and 
her renown has come down to posterity as much from 
her friendship with Michelangelo as from her own 

Vittoria was the daughter of Fabrizio Colonna, 
Grand Constable of Naples, and of Agnesina di 
Montefeltro, of the great house of Urbino ; sister of 
one duke and daughter of another. She was born in 
the year 1490, in the ancient walled city of Marino, 
which nestles amongst the Alban hills between Castel 
Gondolfo and Grotta Ferrata, not far from the Lake of 
Albano. Under Pope Innocent VIII. there was at 


that moment a brief interval of peace before the death 
of Lorenzo dei Medici and the invasion of Italy by the 
French under Charles VIII. 

For a child of such illustrious lineage, her marriage 
would certainly be a matter of political arrangement, 
and in this case it was the King of Naples who, to 
secure the somewhat doubtful fealty of her father, 
the Grand Constable, caused Vittoria's betrothal to 
Ferrante Francesco d'Avalos, the only son of the 
Marquis of Pescaro^a subject of his own. The boy 
and girl were abourthe same age, four years old, when 
this " marriage for the future " took place, according 
to the very frequent custom of that age. We have an 
interesting glimpse of the little Vittoria in the year of 
Jubilee 1500, when the Duchess of Urbino, Elisabetta, 
came on a pilgrimage to Rome, and paid a visit to her 
sister-in-law Agnesina at the castle of Marino. The 
young girl seems to have given early promise of beauty 
and intelligence, and was carefully educated, first 
under her mother's care, and then for some years 
in the guardianship of Ferrante' s elder sister in the 
island of Ischia. 

Costanza d'Avalos, the widowed Duchess of Franca- 

villa, was a woman of strong character, who had 

greatly distinguished herself some years before, by her 

gallant defence of the citadel when attacked by the 

forces of Louis XII. In acknowledgment of her 

heroism, the government of the island was settled 

upon her family. It was here that King Federico of 

Naples took refuge with his wife and children, and his 

two widowed sisters, after the French had taken and 

sacked Capua, and were advancing on Naples, in the 

year 1501. 



The wedding of the young Marchese of Pescaro and 
Vittoria Colonna took place in their nineteenth year, 
at Ischia, on December 27, 1509. There were splendid 
festivities, of which the chroniclers give us the most 
minute particulars, but all these pompous entertain- 
ments greatly resemble each other. A list of the 
wonderful presents is preserved in the Colonna archives, 
and amongst them we notice the furniture of a bed in 
crimson satin and blue taffeta, fringed with gold, and 
pillows of crimson satin edged and garnished with 
gold ; also the housing for a mule of wrought gold 
brocade, given by the bride; while the bridegroom 
offers priceless jewels, diamond crosses, gold chains,&c, 
and costly robes of satin, velvet, and brocade, chiefly 
scarlet and crimson in colour, with the richest of gold 

Ferrante had inherited his title and property at an 
early age by the death of his father, and he is described 
to us as a singularly handsome man, of knightly bear- 
ing, very proud of his noble Spanish blood. He had 
cultivated tastes, and could sympathise with his young 
wife in her love of poetry and literature. They seem 
to have been devotedly attached to each other, and 
their marriage gave every promise of a happy life. 
Their home was in that beautiful island of Ischia, 
where mountains and valleys, sea and sky, the luxuriant 
vegetation of the tropics, the charm of old story — all 
combine to make this spot the ideal dream of a poet. 
Two years of delightful leisure were spent here in the 
cultivated society of the Duchess Costanza and her 
friends, and then the long honeymoon came to an 
abrupt end. 

Ferrante was called away by his military duties, for 
s8 3 


there was war between France on one side, and Naples 
and the Papal States on the other. With his father- 
in-law, Fabrizio Colonna, he joined the army of 
Italy, which was entirely defeated under the walls of 
Ravenna, on April 9, 1512, Pescaro and Colonna 
were both made prisoners, and carried to Milan, where 
the young Marchese nearly died of his wounds, but he 
was well cared for by Gian Trivulsio, Marshal of 
France, who had married his aunt, Beatrice d'Avalos. 
On his recovery he was ransomed by the payment of 
six thousand ducats by his wife, who had sought to 
relieve her distress and anxiety during his captivity, by 
writing a poetical letter to him of one hundred and 
twelve lines in terza rima. Ferrante on his part had 
composed a "Dialogo d'Amore" in his prison, which 
he dedicated to Vittoria. Neither of these com- 
positions have much literary merit, but they are very 
characteristic of the age. For a short time the young 
soldier remained in his beautiful home, enjoying this 
interval of peace with his wife, but her happiness was 
of brief duration. Pescara was soon recalled to the 
field of war in Lombardy, and after this time Vittoria 
seldom saw him. Indeed, after the month of October 
1522 they never met again. In his brilliant military 
career, as general of the Imperial forces, he was always 
engaged at a distance from home. 

We have an interesting account of Vittoria's appear- 
ance on a great occasion at the Court of Naples, for the 
marriage of Sigismond, King of Poland, with Bona 
Sforza, the daughter of the unfortunate Isabella of 
Arragon, In the midst of the most magnificent 
festivities and revels, we are told : " The illustrious 
lady, Madonna Vittoria, Marchesa of Pescara, was 


mounted on a black-and-white jennet, with housings 
of crimson velvet fringed with gold. She was attended 
by six of her ladies-in-waiting, clad all alike in azure 
damask, and followed by six grooms on foot with 
cloaks and jerkins of blue and yellow satin. She 
herself wore a robe of brocaded crimson velvet, 
adorned with large branches of beaten gold, a crimson 
satin cap, with a head-dress of wrought gold above it, 
and a girdle of beaten gold round her waist." She 
was a very beautiful woman at that time, with deli- 
cately-moulded classical features, large bright eyes, 
the smooth, high forehead so much admired then, and 
golden hair. 

The Marchesa had no children of her own, and she 
decided to adopt and educate a young cousin of her 
husband's, Alfonso d'Avalos, as an occupation during 
the long absences of Pescaro. The boy was very 
intelligent, but he had Spanish blood in his veins, 
and was most unruly and difficult to manage. How- 
ever, she acquired great influence over him, and 
became very much attached to him. Vittoria also 
found many intellectual interests ; for, besides the 
men of letters and poets who came to her court, 
she had much literary correspondence. Castiglione, 
then ambassador in Spain, writes to her thus : " I 
have felt so much joy in the victories of the Marchese 
that at first I would not write a letter — a letter is so 
common a thing ! One writes letters about events of 
no importance. 1 had thought of fireworks, fetes, 
concerts, songs, and other vigorous demonstrations, 
but reflection has shown me that these are inferior to 
the concert of my own affections; and so I am come 
back to the idea of a letter, convinced that my mar- 


chcsa will be able to see what I have in ray soul, i 
though my words fail to express it. . . And as to 
my duty towards your highness, seek, I pray you, the 
testimony of your own heart, and give it credence, 
for I am sure your heart will not lie to you on what 
not only yourself, but the whole world, sees shining 
through ray soul, as through the purest crystal. And 
thus I remain, kissing your hands, and humbly 
commending myself to your good favour. Madrid, 
March 21." 

On one occasion Vittoria Colonna wrote a charming 
letter to Paolo Giovio, in which she spoke with great 
enthusiasm of her "divine Bembo." Paolo Giovio lost 
no time in passing this letter on to him. " I send 
you," he writes, " a letter from your lady-love, the 
most illustrious marchesa. It is very pretty, and 
speaks of you, and I send it to you at once without 
any of that resentment which rivals are so apt to feel, 
for I am fully assured that her excellency's love for 
your lordship is in all points like to my own love for 
her, that is, celestial, holy, altogether Platonic. Her 
excellency is come to Naples from Ischia, with the 
other noble dames. I mean the serene Amalfia and 
the superb Vasta, with the Francavila (the Duchess 
Costanza, her sister-in-law), a mirror of virtue, and 
verily a matchless beauty," * 

This must have been at the time of the King of 
Poland's wedding. 

Meantime, great events were happening in Italy. 

The French were defeated at Novaro, then for awhile 

there was peace between the Pope and the French 

king ; then again the French take Milan and hold it 

* De Maulde. 



until the Pope and the Emperor Charles join against 
them and drive them from Milan in 1521. Then at 
length comes the final rout, when, under the leader- 
ship 01' Pescara, tlic battle of Pavia is won in 1525, on 
February 24 ;and Francis I., taken prisoner, sends home 
to his mother the one brief message : " Tout est perdu 
fors 1'honneur," 

Pescara was wounded, but not dangerously, in the 
battle, and he claimed the custody of the royal 
prisoner, who was, however, taken away from his 
charge into Spain. He was at this time general-in. 
chief in all Lorabardy, and high in the confidence of 
Charles V., and he felt himself sorely aggrieved at 
losing his captive. Until this time, whatever his 
private character might have been, he had not only 
been successful, but crowned with honour and glory. 
But now, in his rage and discontent, he appears to 
have listened to plans of secret treachery. It was 
suggested to him that if he would turn against the 
emperor, he should be offered the crown of Naples. 
We do not know exactly how far he wavered in his 
allegiance, but some rumour must have reached his 
wife, for she wrote to him a most touching and 
earnest letter, begging him : 

" That you consider well what you are doing, mind- 
ful of your pristine fame and estimation ; and in truth, 
for my part, I care not to be the wife of a king, but 
rather to be joined to a faithful and loyal man ; for 
it is not riches, titles, and kingdoms which can give 
true glory, infinite praise, and perpetual renown to 
noble spirits desirous of eternal fame ; but faith, sin- 
cerity, and other virtues of the soul ; and with these 
a a 7 


man may rise higher than the highest kings, not on] 
in war, but in peace," 

From all we know of the Marchese di Pescaro': 
character, it is very doubtful if this letter had an] 
effect. Historians believe that having reason to doul 
the success of the plot, he resolved to betray his friei 
Morone, and revealed the whole scheme to Charles V. 
vowing that he had never wavered in his allegiance, and 
had but drawn on the conspirators to their own be- 
trayal. In return for this double treachery he received 
the title of Generalissimo of the imperial troops, but 
he did not live to errjoy this splendid position for many 
months. He fell ill of a mysterious complaint, which 
some biographers attribute to anxiety and remorse, and 
grew so rapidly worse that before the end of the y< 
there was no hope of recovery. 

An urgent messenger was sent by him from Milan, 
to tell the news to his wife, who set off at once in 
anxious haste, but when she arrived at Viterbo she 
heard of his death. This was in November 1525, and 
he was first buried at Milan, but his body was after- 
wards removed with stately ceremony to Naples. In 
the church of S. DomenicO Maggiore, amongst the huj 
chests covered with velvet which bear the names of the 
" Princes and Princesses of the House of Aragon, 
one which contains the bones of "Ferrante Frano 
d'Avalos," and over his tomb hang his portrait and hi: 

In her loyalty and her love, Vittoria forgot all her 
husband's faults, and for a time was absolutely broken- 
hearted. Her first impulse was to flee from the world, 
and she sought a refuge in Rome in the convent of 




Silvestro in Capite. This was of the order of Santa 
Chiara, and was founded especially for noble sisters of 
the house of Colonna, who might wish to dedicate 
themselves to God. The first desire of the widowed 
lady, still only in her thirty-fifth year, was to take 
the veil, in her affliction. But it is a curious proof 
of the importance which she had in the eyes of her 
friends, that Pope Clement VII. was persuaded to send 
a brief to the abbess and nuns of San Silvestro per- 
mitting them to receive into their convent the Marchesa 
di Pescara, and to offer her all spiritual and temporal 
consolations, but forbidding them, under pain of the 
greater excommunication, to permit her to take the 
veil in her distress. " Impetu potius sui doloris, quam 
maturo consilio circa mutationem vestium vidualium 
in monasticas. December 7, 1525." 

If she could not enter the sisterhood, at least she 
could consecrate her whole life to the memory of her 
beloved husband, and to religion. She remained at 
San Silvestro until the following autumn, when she was 
at Marino, during the great feud between the Colonna 
family, who took part with the Emperor, and the Orsini 
who were on the side of the Pope. Upon this 
Clement VI I. declared the estates of the Colonna family 
confiscated, and Vittoria returned to her safe haven at 
Ischia. She must have been indeed thankful for so 
peaceful a retreat, when the very next year saw that 
terrible sack and plunder of Rome, to the horror and 
dismay of all the civilised world. 

In her quiet island home, the young widow slowly 
recovered from the first overwhelming grief for her 
husband's loss, and reached the stage when she could 
find relief in writing tender sonnets to his memory ; 2 

38q T 


kind of " In Memoriam." Of these about one hundred 
and thirty-four have been preserved, and she always 
calls her Ferrante, " mio bel solo." Her fame as a 
poetess, even during her lifetime/procured her the 
title of « La Divina." The following translation will 
give some idea of one of the sonnets : 

Hither did my fair sun to me return 

From the fierce fight, all laden with his spoils. 

Alas, to me what grief bring these fair scenes, 

Where once his dazzling beams shone bright and clear I 

A thousand honours did his valour win 

Ot faith and glory and of knightly zeal, 

Proclaimed with joy by many-tongued renown 

While on his brow the victor's laurels rest 

At my fond prayer he showed me his dear wounds, 

And to my ravished ears revealed the place, 

The hour, of all his mighty victories. 

As erst my joy, so great my sorrow now, 

While my sad memories the past recall 

With sweet regrets and many bitter tears. 

This certainly deserves the contemporary praise of 
being written " in very choice Italian ; " and a high 
authority has described her poetry, as "penetrated 
with genuine feeling, it has that dignity and sweetness 
which belong to the spontaneous utterances of a noble 

Thou knowest, Love, I never sought to flee 
From thy sweet prison, nor impatient threw 
Thy dear yoke from my neck ; never withdrew 

What, that first day, my soul bestowed on thee. 

Time hath not changed love's ancient surety; 

The knot is still as firm ; and though there grew 

Moment by moment fruit bitter as rue, 
Yet the fair tree remains as dear to me. 



And thou bast seen how that keen shaft of thine, 
'Gainst which the might of Death himself is m 
Smote on one ardent, faithful breast full sore. 

Now loose the cords that fast my soul entwine, 
For though of freedom ne'er I recked before, 
i I yearn my freedom to regain.* 

After three peaceful years in Ischia, Vittoria was 
driven away by the plague, so frequent a follower of 
war and devastation. She turned her steps to Rome, 
which was now beginning to revive after the horrors of 
that terrible pillage and ruin of 1527. Many distin- 
guished exiles had already returned thither; amongst 
them her adopted son the Marchese del Vasto, and she 
found herself warmly welcomed, and soon became the 
centre of a delightful literary and artistic circle. That 
same year we find that Titian paints a Magdalen, which 
the Duke Federico of Mantua had promised her for a 
present. He writes thus : 

" I sent to Venice at once, and wrote to Titian, who 
is perhaps the best master now living, begging him 
earnestly to make a picture of this saint, as beautiful 
and tearful as possible, and to let me have it directly." 

On receiving this princely gift, Vittoria expresses the 
warmest gratitude, and sends the duke an exquisitely 
wrought casket filled with rare perfumes and cosmetic 
of roses. She continued her friendly relations with 
him, and on his marriage with Margherita Paleologa, 
the heiress of Monferrato, she sends him her warmest 
wishes; "she could not wish her own Marchese del 
Vasto greater joy or good fortune." She also encloses 
* De Maulde's Trans. 


two of her latest sonnets as a wedding offering. On 
another occasion she asked one of her friends who 
was going to Mantua, to offer Federico "a friendly 
and sympathetic greeting," with some small token of 
her regard The friend presented the duke with a 
basket of roses, and he wrote at once to thank the 
lady with his deepest respect. Whereupon Vittoria 
wrote him a formal apology that her envoy had 
" honoured him so little " as to give so small an 

It was only natural that a lady of such wealth and 
beauty should be sought in marriage, but she refused 
every offer, and would make reply : " My husband 
Ferrante, who to you seems dead, is not dead to me." 
At the time of her loss, amongst the many letters of 
condolence she received, Castiglione had written: 
" Calamity has fallen upon you like a deluge. I durst 
not write to your highness at first, for I deemed that 
you had died with the Marchese ; to-day in all verity 
and admiration I hold that the Marchese still liveth in 
you." This indeed was the universal feeling of sym- 
pathy towards her ; her love for her husband was 
known to have been "passionate as youth and enduring 
as age, mutual, whole and faithful." 

In the year 1528, " II Cortigiano," of Baldassare 
Castiglione, was first printed in Venice, and it is in- 
teresting to remember that, before giving it to the 
world, the author submitted the manuscript to Vittoria 
for her approval. She kept it a long time, and praised 
everything most warmly ; the freshness of the subject, 
the refinement, elegance, and animation of the style. 
She is quite jealous of the persons that are quoted in 
such a book, even if they are dead. When at last she 



returns it, she omits to add that she has lent it rather 

At Rome she was for a time the guest of her sister- 
in-law, Madonna Giovanna d'Aragon, the wife of 
Ascanio Colonna, whose family had made peace with 
Pope Clement, and recovered the princely estates. 
She survived her husband for two-and-twenty years, 
of which she spent a portion in her lovely home at 
Ischia, and sometimes in convents at Orvieto and 
Viterbo, while she found interest and variety in many 
journeys. Amongst her many correspondents was the 
famous Marguerite of France ; but these two ladies, 
who had so much in common, never had the oppor- 
tunity of meeting. In one of her earliest letters 
Vittoria writes that while awaiting the infinite happi- 
ness of a meeting, she ventures to reply to the " high 
and religious " words of the princess. 

" In our day the long and difficult journey of life 
compels us to have a guide. It seems to me that 
everyone in his own sex can find the most appropriate 
models. ... I turned towards the illustrious ladies of 
Italy to find examples for imitation, and though I saw 
many virtuous among them . , . yet one woman 
alone, and she not in Italy, seemed to me to unite the 
perfections of the will with those of the intellect ; but 
she was so high placed and so far away that my heart 
was filled with the gloom and fear of the Hebrews 
when they perceived the fire and glory of God on the 
mountain top, and durst not draw near because of 
their imperfection." 

After these personal compliments she speaks of her 


group of friends ; of Monsignor Pole, " who is always 
in the heavens, and only descends to earth to do 
service to others" ; of Bembo, one of the labourers of 
the eleventh hour, but by reason of his ardour worthy 
of the wages of the first, and she adds that " all this 
company unites in contemplating from afar the queen 
of gems so rich in radiance that she enriches others." 

In another letter the Marchesa enters more deeply 
into the burning question of the day. She is full of 
respect for reason, but with her " religion is first, the 
supreme perfection of our soul, the perfect beauty." 
More fully to explain her meaning she encloses a copy 
of her sonnets. These verses had a curious adventure. 
Although addressed to the great Lady Marguerite, 
sister of the King of France, they were intercepted in 
the post by order of the Constable de Montmorency. 
We do not know if he read the sonnets, but he 
strongly disapproved of the correspondence, and only 
gave up the book " after a stormy scene at the king's 
table." With regard to the handwriting of Vittoria, in 
which some people see a " mirror of the soul," we are 
told that it was clear and plain, " somewhat masculine 
in character, but both nervous and irregular, with a 
multitude of abbreviations and splotches." 

The remark in her letter to Marguerite of France 
that with her " religion was first," touches the key- 
note of all her later life. Her most intimate friends 
; were chosen from those earnest thinkers who were 
1 deeply interested in Church reform and the new in- 
fluences of the Reformation, without ceasing to be, 
for the most pari, loyal sons of the Church. In April 
1557 the Marchesa went to Ferrara on a visit to the 
Duchess Renee, who, like herself, was much interested 


in religious questions, and she stood sponsor in June 
to her new-born daughter, the Leonora of Tasso's 
love. Her arrival there is thus described : 

" Madonna Vittoria Colonna, famed for her elegance 
in the poetic art, not less than for Christian virtues, 
arrived at Ferrara in humble guise, accompanied by 
six of her ladies, on her way, as was said, to Venice, 
whence she purposed to make a pilgrimage to the Holy 
Land. She, who was a great patroness of Bernardino 
Ochino of Siena, as long as he remained in the right 
path, by the influence of the duke obtained the gift 
of an oratory, together with a small piece of ground 
in the Borgo della Misericordia, on the Po, and there 
having built a modest retreat, she placed Ochino and 
a few Capuchins of his brethren. Fra Bernardino, 
during the time he dwelt there, preached in the 
cathedral in the Advent of that year, and subsequently 
was elected general of his order," 

Vittoria seems to have been greatly interested in 
this friar, whose sermons had a remarkable success. 
Agostino Gonzago writes from Rome in Lent 1537 
about him : " He is a man of most holy life himself, 
and his sermons are devoted to the exposition of the 
Gospels. His whole object is to teach men how to 
walk in the steps of Christ, and he has the most ad- 
mirable fervour, as well as a most perfect voice. He 
is not afraid of saying what is good for his hearers, 
and aims his rebukes chiefly at those in high station, 
so that all Rome flocks to hear him. . . . TheMarchesa 
di Pescara is always present at these sermons, and is 
living in seclusion with the sisters of San Silvestro, 


receiving no visits, and wearing the humblest of habits, 
and is so devoted to religious exercises that it is ex- 
pected she will soon take the veil." 

Later on Cardinal Berabo writes from Venice : " I am 
prayed by divers gentle souls in this city to intercede 
with your grace, that you would be pleased to persuade 
your Padre Fra Bernardino da Siena to come hither 
next Lent and preach in the church of the Holy 
Apostles, to the reverence and honour of our Lord 
God ; which thing they greatly desire to obtain from 
his reverence. Nor they alone, but all the citizens are 
in infinite expectation of hearing him." After his 
request had been granted, the cardinal expresse: 
admiration of the friar's eloquence and piety ; " he had 
never heard such preaching." 

When Vittoria left Ferrara, she had won all heai 
" This morning the Signora Marchesa di Pescara starti 
for Bologna," writes the Cardinal of Ravenna, " to 
incredible grief of his excellency the duke, of myself, 
and of the whole city. We have indeed been divinely 
entertained by her presence, and can only comfort 
ourselves with the promises she has made to return 
before long. Last night we enjoyed a rare treat. The 
duke and I as well as the Marchesa, supped with the 
duchess, and after supper the Marchesa read us five 
sonnets of her composition, which were so beautiful 
that I do not think an angel from heaven could hai 
written anything more perfect." 

It was about this period that occurred the great evei 
of Vittoria's later life, her friendship with Michelangi 
who was then in his sixty-third year, while she 
nearly forty-eight. A strong sympathy grew up betwi 
these two, who were alike in the melancholy of 




natures, in their deep religious feelings, and in their 
cultivated artistic and intellectual tastes. This is one 
of the first letters which Michelangelo wrote to the 
raarchesa, in 1538 : 

" I am going in search of truth with uncertain step. 
My heart, floating unceasingly between vice and virtue, 
suffers and finds itself failing, like a weary traveller 
wandering on in the dark. . . . Ah ! do thou become 
my counsellor. Thy advice shall be sacred. Clear 
away my doubts. Teach me in my wavering how my 
unenlightened soul may resist the tyranny of passion 
unto the end. Do thou thyself, who hast directed my 
steps towards heaven by ways of pleasantness, prescribe 
a course for me." 

It was the custom of this great master to show 
friendship by the gift of a drawing, and for Vittoria he 
designed sketches from the Passion of our Lord. 
Ascanio Condivi says : 

" At the request of this lady he made a naked Christ, 
at the moment when, taken from the cross, our Lord 
would have fallen like an abandoned corpse at the feet 
of His most holy Mother, if two angels did not support 
Him in their arms. She sits below the cross with a 
face full of tears and sorrow, lifting both her wide- 
spread arms to heaven, while on the stem of a tree 
above is written this legend : ' Non vi si pensa qua nte 
sangue costa.' The cross is of the same kind as that 
which was carried in procession by the White Friars at 
the time of the plague of 1348, and afterwards deposited 
in the church of S. Croce at Florence." 


This is a portion of the letter in which she writes 
acknowledging it : 

" 1 had the greatest faith in God that He would 
bestow on you supernatural grace for the making of 
this Christ. The design is in all parts perfect and con- 
summate, and I could not desire more. I tell you that 
I am greatly pleased to see the angel on the right hand 
is by far the fairer ; since he, Michael, will place you, 
Michel Angelo, upon the right hand of God in that day. 
Meanwhile, I cannot serve you better than by praying 
to this sweet Christ, whom you have drawn so well and 
perfectly, and begging you to hold me ever at your 

The superscription on one ot her letters was : 
"Al mio piu che magnifico e piu che carissimo 
M. Michel Angelo Buonarotti." And in another letter 
she says : Our friendship is stable and our affection 
very sure, it is tied with a Christian knot." 

There is something very touching and beautiful 
the relation between the man of genius, to whom tl 
cultured lady was a revelation, with her sensitive 
feeling and delicate insight— and the widowed princess 
who found a solace and a keen interest in the creative 
mind of the master painter. She had many friends, 
brilliant men of the world, cardinals and courtiers, who 
laid their wit and talent, their learning and their ] 
at her feet, but she had never met a friend like 

Messer Francesco d'Ollanda, architect, illnmii 
and miniature artist, who had been sent into Italn 




the Portuguese government to study art, has left us 
an exquisite little miniature in words, which, although 
well known, will bear repeating once more. It is an 
account of a meeting with the Marchesa di Pescara 
and Michelangelo, and he thus tells it : 

"Among the days that I passed in this capital, when 
I went to see, as was my wont, Messer Lactantius 
Totomei, who had become friendly with Michel Angelo, 
they told me at his house that he had left word for 
me that he would be at Monte Cavallo, in the con- 
vent of San Silvestro, with Madonna, the Marchesa of 
Pescara, to hear a reading from the Epistles of St. 
Paul. Away I went, then, to Monte Cavallo, and was 
graciously received by the noble lady. She made me 
sit down, and, when the reading was over, she turned 
and requested some one to go to Michel Angelo and say 
to him : ' Messer Lactantius and I are in this chapel, 
which is cool and fresh, and the church is closed and 
pleasant. Ask him if he will be good enough to come 
and lose a part of the day with us, that we may have 
the benefit of gaining it with him, but do not tell 
him that Francesco d'Ollando the Spaniard is here.' 
After some moments of silence we heard a knock at 
the door ... it was he. The Marchesa rose to receive 
him, and remained standing for some time, until she 
placed him between Messer Lactantius and herself. I 
sat a little apart. She spoke of one thing and another 
with much intelligence and grace, without ever touch- 
ing upon the subject of painting, so as to make sure of 
the great painter. ... At last she said : ' It is a well- 
known fact that a man will always be beaten if he tries 
to attack Michel Angelo on his own ground. ... As for 

you,' she said to him, ' I do not think you less praise- 
worthy for the way in which you isolate yourself, and 
avoid our trivial talk and refuse to paint for every 
prince who asks you ....'" 

A most interesting dialogue followed on painting, in 
which Vittoria makes these characteristic remarks : 

" Painting," she said, " better than any other means, 
enables us to see the humility of the saints, the con- 
stancy of the martyrs, the purity of the virgins, the 
beauty of the angels, the love and charity with which 
the seraphim burns ; it raises and transports mind and 
soul beyond the stars, and leads us to contemplate the 
eternal sovereignty of God. ... If we desire to see a 
man renowned for his deeds, painting shows us him to 
the life. It brings before our eyes the image of a 
beauty far removed from our experience, and Pliny 
held this to be a service of priceless value. The widow 
in her affliction finds solace in gazing every day upon 
her husband's picture ; young orphans owe to painting 
the happiness of recognising, when they have come to 
man's estate, the features of a beloved father." 

The Marchesa di Pescara must have had most 
excellent judgment in the matter of artistic work, as 
we gather from the following letter, which she wrote 
on receiving a drawing for a crucifix from the great 
master, who suggested that if she liked it, he would 
entrust the execution of it to one of his workmei 
probably Urbino : 

"Unique Master Michel Angelo and my most singula 
friend, 1 have received your letter and examined t 


crucifix, which truly hath crucified in my memory 
every other picture I ever saw. Nowhere could one 
find another figure of our Lord so well executed, so 
living, and so exquisitely finished. Truly I cannot 
express in words how subtly and marvellously it is 
designed. Wherefore I am resolved to take the work 
as coming from no other hand but yours, and accord- 
ingly I beg you to assure me whether this is really 
yours or another's. Excuse the question. If it is 
yours, 1 must possess it under any conditions. In case 
it is not yours, and you want to have it carried out by 
your assistant, we will talk the matter over first. I 
know how extremely difficult it would be to copy it, 
and therefore I would rather let him finish something 
else than this ; but if it be in fact yours, rest assured, 
and make the best of it, that it will never come again 
into your keeping. I have examined it minutely in 
full light and by the lens and mirror, and never saw 
anything more perfect. — Yours to command, 

"La Marchesa di PESCARA." 

The lady shows her insight in discovering that the 
sketch is by the hand of Michelangelo himself, and is 
evidently resolved to keep it. She more than hints 
that she would like the crucifix to be executed by the 
same hand as the drawing. She always writes in the 
manner of a great princess, with a delicate touch of 
patronage in her admiration. 

Only a few of Michelangelo's letters to Vittoria 
Colonna are preserved, and the following is one of the 
most interesting, evidently written after receiving some 
sonnets from her. For some years past there had 
been a strong religious tendency in her poetry : 


" I desired, lady, before I accepted the things which 
your ladyship has often expressed the will to give me 
— I desired to produce for you something with my 
own hand in order to be as little as possible unworthy 
of this kindness. I have now come to recognise that 
the grace of God is not to be bought, and that to keep 
it waiting is a grievous sin. Therefore, I acknowledge 
my error, and willingly accept your favours. When I 
possess them, not indeed because I shall have them in 
my house, but for that I myself shall dwell in them, 
the place will seem to encircle me with Paradise, for 
which felicity I shall remain ever more obliged to your 
ladyship than 1 am already — if that is possible. 

"The bearer of this letter will be Urbino, who lives 
in my service. Your ladyship may inform me when you 
would like me to come and see the head you promise 
to show me." 

This letter is the more worthy of insertion, in thai 
it is written below the autograph of a sonnet sent at tl 
same time : 

Seeking at least to be not all unfit 
For thy sublime and boundless courtesy. 
My lowly thoughts at first were fain to try 
What they could yield for grace so infinite. 
But now I know my unassisted wit 

Is all too weak to make me soar so high, 
For pardon, lady, for this fault I cry, 
And wiser still I grow, remembering it, 
Yea, well I see what folly 'twere to think 
That largess dropped from thee like dews from heaven 
Could ere be paid by work so frail as mine 1 
To nothingness my art and talent sink; 

He fails who from his mortal stores bath given 
A thousand fold to match one gift divine. 

Translated by J. A. Symonds. 


Everything from the hand of Michelangelo in con- 
nection with this famous friendship is of great interest, 
and it will be an appropriate place to quote another 
sonnet, which must have been written about the time, 
and in the same spirit of tender gratitude : 

Blest spirit, who with loving tenderness 
Quickenest my heart, so old and near to die, 
Who 'mid thy joys on me dost bend an eye, 
Though many nobler men around thee press 

As thou wert ercwhile wont my sight to bless, 
So to console my mind thou now dost fly; 
Hope therefore stills the pangs of memory. 
Which, coupled with desire, my soul distress. 

So finding in thee grace to plead for me — 
Thy thoughts for me sunk in so sad a case — 
He who now writes returns thee thanks for these. 

Lo I It were foul and monstrous usury 
To send thee ugliest paintings in the place 
Of thy fair spirit's living phantasies." 

In this slight sketch of Vittoria's life there is no space 
for her many religious poems, but it may be interesting 
to give the following : 


Gli angeli eletti al gran bene infinito 

Braman oggi soffrir penosa morte, 

Accio uella celesle empirea corte 

Non sia pin il servo, die il signor, gradito. 
Piange 1'antica madre il gusto ardito 
Cb'a 6gli suol del del chiuse le portc; 

E che due man piagate or sieno scorte 
Da ridame al cammin per lei smarrito. 
Asconde il sol la sua fulgeute chioma ; 

Spezzansi i sassi vivi : apronsi i monti ; 

* J. A. Svmosds" Trans. 



Trema la terra e'lciel; turbansi 1'acque; 
Piangon gli spirti, al nostro mal si prouti, 
Delle catene lor l'aggiunta soma 

L'uomo dod piange.e pur piangendo nacque. 

Which may be rendered thus : 

The angels to eternal bliss elect 

Desire this day to suffer painful death 

Lest in the courts celestial it befall 

The servant be more favoured than his Lord. 

Man's ancient mother weeps the fatal deed 

That closed the gates of heaven against her sons 

The two pierced hands she weeps, whose work of grace 

Found for His own the path which she had lost. 

The sun in dread doth veil his shining mane. 

The living rocks are torn, the mountains burst, 

Earth and sky tremble and the waters quake, 

The evil spirits weep, who wish us ill, 

The added burden of their captive chains. 

Man only weeps not, yet was weeping born. 

It is noticeable both in the writings of Michelangel 
and his friend the Marchesa, that they do not give i 
Catholic legend, but ever the Gospel simplicity of 1 
Christian religion. We find the doctrine of " justifies 
tion by faith," of Christ the Mediator — doubtless mud 
dwelt upon in the evangelical teaching of Luther and 
Calvin — and yet as old as Saint Augustine. Both the 
illustrious friends were ardent students of Dante, and 
yet were one in heart with Savonarola. In her later 
years, Vittoria incurred the suspicion of the Holy 

But the life of the widowed Marchesa was not one 
undisturbed scene of devotion to religion and literature. 
There had been a temporary truce between Pope Paul 
III. and the Colonna family, but it was again disturb 


by so small a matter as an increased tax on salt. 
Ascanio Colonna refused to pay it, pleading some an- 
cient privilege ; and some of his vassals also re/using to 
pay it, they were thrown into prison by the papal tax- 
collectors. Thereupon Ascanio made a raid into the 
Campania, and carried off some herds of cattle, with the 
result that the indignant Pope declared war on the 
house of Colonna, took their chief fortresses, and 
levelled them with the ground. 

During this disastrous warfare, Vittoria left Rome 
and took refuge at Orvielo, in that beautiful hill-city, 
rising above the fertile plain, where the river Paglia 
winds like some creeping snake, in ever-changing light 
and shade. There she must have seen that exquisite 
Duomo, in all the fresh glory of Signorelli's frescoes, 
painted recently in her lifetime ; and the perfect rose 
window amid the marvellous mosaics of the great 
facade, which can be seen from far below, like a glitter- 
ing shield in the sunlight. 

During her voluntary exile at Orvieto, the Marchesa 
received visits from many of her distinguished friends 
at the court of Rome, and it is a high tribute to the 
respect and admiration felt for her personal character, 
that her friendship and influence with the Pope were 
unbroken. She was persuaded to return, after less 
than two years, to the Eternal City, where her absence 
had been a serious loss ; and from this time until her 
death she remained there, except for occasional visits to 
Viterbo, where she took great interest in the new 
convent, which had been founded recently, of Saint 
Catherine of Alexandria, for Dominican nuns of the 
second order. Viterbo, which is only thirty miles north 
of Rome, was looked upon as a healthy change from 

the closer air of the city, and must have been exceed- 
ingly picturesque in those days, with its multitude of 
high battlcmented towers, so common a feature of the 
fortified hill towns of the Middle Ages. 

Towards the close of the year 1544, Vittoria Colonna 
retired to the Convent of the Benedictines of Saint 
Anna, in Rome, for a time. She was in ill health, and 
caused great anxiety to her friends, who wrote to a 
famous physician and poet, Fracostoro of Verona, for 
his counsel and advice. He does not seem to have 
thoroughly understood her illness, but was disposed to 
attribute it to prolonged depression of spirits. She had 
indeed much to sadden her closing years, for the 
fortunes of her family were in evil case, and the 
disputes between the Pope and her brother must have 
been a serious trouble to her. But her greatest sorrow 
was the loss of her adopted son, the Marchese del Vasto, 
to whom she was tenderly attached. As her end drew 
near, she was carried to the palace of her kinswoman 
Giulia Colonna, the wife of Giuliano Cesarmi, and 
there she passed away in the month of February 1547, 
dying, as she had lived, in calm serenity and simple, 
lowly faith. 

Condivi gives a pathetic account of Michelangelo's 
last sight of her beloved face. " In particular, he greatly 
loved the Marchesa di Pescara, of whose divine spirit 
he was enamoured, being in return dearly beloved by 
her. He still preserves many of her letters, breathing 
honourable and most tender affection, and such as 
were wont to issue from a heart like hers. He also 
wrote to her a great number of sonnets, full of wit and 
sweet affection. . . . He, for his part, loved her so that 
I remember to have heard him say that he regretted 


nothing except that when he went to visit her upon the 
moment of her passage from this life, he did not kiss 
her forehead or her face, as he did kiss her hand. 
Her death was the cause that oftentimes he dwelt 
astonied thinking of it, even as a man bereft of 

Under the sharp pang of bereavement, he composed 
two sonnets which fitly enshrine her memory, 


When my rude hammer to the stubborn stone 
Gives human shape, now that, now this, at will, 
Follows his hand who wields and guides it still, 

It moves upon another's feet alone. 

But He who dwells in heaven all things dotb fill 
With beauty by pure motions of His own ; 
And since tools fashion tools which else were none, 

Its life makes all that lives with living skill. 

Now for that every stroke excels the more 
The higher at the forge it doth ascend, 
Her soul that fashioned mine hath sought the skies ; 

Wherefore unfinished I must meet my end, 
If God, the great Artificer, denies 

That aid which was unique on earth before. 

When she who was the source of all my sighs 

Fled from the world, herself, my strainiug sight, 

Nature, who gave us that unique delight, 
Was sunk in shame, and we had weeping eyes. 
Yet shall not vauntful Death enjoy the prize, 

This sun of suns which then he veiled in night ; 

For Love hath triumphed, lifting up her light 
On earth and 'mid the saints in Paradise. 
What though remorseless and impiteous doom 

Deemed that the music of her deeds would die, 
And that her splendour would be sunk in gloom ? 


The poet's page exalts her to the sky 

With life more living in the lifeless tomb, 
And Death translates her soul to reign on high.* 

It will not be out of place to quote here a letter 
written seven years later by the aged Michelangelo to 
his nephew Lionardo : 

" I have been asked if I possess any writings of 
Marchesa. I have a little book bound in parchment, 
which she gave me some ten years ago. It has one 
hundred and three sonnets, not counting another forty 
which she afterwards sent on paper from Viterbo. I 
had these bound into the same book, and at that time I 
used to lend them about to many persons, so that they 
are all of them now in print. In addition to these 
poems I have many letters which she wrote from 
Orvieto and Viterbo. These then are the writings I 
possess of the Marchesa." 



We have no marble monument to record the memoi 
of this most noble and perfect lady of the Italian 
Renaissance. She desired to be buried in all respects 
like a Benedictine Sister, and her wish was obeyed, for 
not a stone or tablet marks the place where her body 
rests. But she has left us a touching prayer, a petition 
for peace and happiness in this world and the next, 
which is too typical of her character to omit. 

" Grant, I beseech Thee, Lord, that by the humility 
that becomes the creature and by the pride Thy 
greatness demands, I may adore Thee always, and that 
in the fear Thy justice imposes, as in the hope Thy 

* J. A. Svmonds' Trans. 



clemency justifies, I may live eternally and submit to 
Thee as the Almighty, follow Thee as the All-wise, and 
turn towards Thee as towards Perfection and Goodness. 
I beseech Thee, most tender Father, that Thy living 
fire may purify me, Thy radiant light illumine me ; that 
this sincere love for Thee may profit me in such wise 
that, never finding let or hindrance in things of this 
world, I may return to Thee in happiness and safety."* 

* Translated from the Latin original. 








Come to the court, and Balthazar affords 
Fountains of holy and rose-water words. 

Guilpin, in his u SkiaWhia ' 



AMONGST the women of the Italian Renaissance, 
Elisabetta Gonzaga stands out as one of the central 
figures, not only on account of her unique position 
as queen of that court of Urbino, which has become 
the very ideal of intellectual culture, but also from her 
own most interesting personality. Brought up in an 
atmosphere of art and scholarship, she inherited a 
taste for letters from a line of distinguished ancestors, 
and her sweetness of nature lent a new charm to her 
learning and accomplishments. 

She was born at Mantua in 1471, the daughter of 
Federico, eldest son of the reigning duke, Lodovico, 
most illustrious of his race. Her mother was 
Margaretta of Bavaria, daughter of Duke Sigismond, 
and the old chroniclers give us a very quaint account 
of her arrival in Italy. Her followers were rough and 
uncouth in their speech and manners, they wore 
coarse garments of a red colour and grotesque shape, 
and altogether appear to have shocked the more 
civilised Mantuans. We learn that Federico was most 
unwilling to accept this foreign bride, who is described 


as unattractive ; but the Emperor Frederick had ar- 
ranged the marriage, and it had to be carried out 
Poor Margaretta seems to have been of a placid, gentle 
disposition, a good wife and mother, but we do not 
hear much about her. She died a year after her 
father-in-law, Lodovico, in 1479, leaving a young 
family of six children. 

Of these, Elisabetta, and her sister Maddelena, 
who was seven at her mother's death, were the two 
youngest girls. Their eldest sister Chiara was married 
a couple of years later to the Due de Montpensier, 
cousin of the King of France, to the great satisfaction 
of her grandmother, the famous Barbara of Branden- 
burg, who died shortly afterwards. Duke Federico 
was very much devoted to his two little daughters, 
and took great pains about their education. An ac- 
complished lady, Violante de' Preti, was their teacher 
and constant companion. They learnt Latin from 
the learned Colombino of Verona, a noted writer on 
Dante, and they had masters for dancing, the lute, and 
singing. Amongst other interesting letters about their 
early education is one written by Violante to their 

" Illustrissimo principi et excellentissimo domino, 
— You will hear with pleasure that your illustrious 
daughters are well in health, happy and obedient; 
thus it is pleasure to see them at their books and 
embroidery. They are very docile, and they delight in 
riding their new pony, one having the saddle and the 
other on pillion. Thus they ride in the park, closely 
followed by men on horseback, and we attend them 
behind in the chariot. This pony gives them much 



enjoyment, and no present from your excellency 
could have been more acceptable. By the grace of 
God I will endeavour to send you each day good 
tidings, that your highness may rest content, and 1 
commend myself to your favour. — Your servant to 
command, Violante de' Preti. — 14 August, 1481. — 

They had been spending the summer in the country 
at the villa of Porto, which was probably needful for 
the health of Elisabetta, who was always delicate. 
The Marquis Federico was much away from home at 
that time, as he took the field in alliance with Ferrara 
and other States, against the Venetians and the Pope's 
nephew. But he kept up his keen interest in works of 
art, and we find him constantly giving directions to 
Andrea Mantegna with regard to the decorations of 
his Mantuan palaces. Had not the constant expenses 
of war been so heavy a drain on his treasury, he would 
have added to the Castello until it rivalled the won- 
derful palace of Urbino. 

Another letter from Violante de' Preti gives an ac- 
count of a visit paid to Mantua during the absence of 
the marquis, by Lorenzo dei Medici. He was on a 
journey to Cremona, where a congress was to be held, 
and Francesco, the eldest son of Federico, received 
him in the place of his father. His little sisters were 
introduced to the Magnifico, who sat down and talked 
with them, and seems to have been delighted with 
their courtesy and intelligence. 

The death of their father in 1484 must have been a 

great loss to all his children. He was succeeded by 

Francesco, who was barely eighteen, but who had 



been already betrothed for some years to Isabella 
d'Este, the daughter of the Duke of Ferrara. 
Sigismondo, the second son, was studying at the Uni- 
versity of Pavta, as he was destined for the Church, 
and ultimately became a cardinal. Giovanni, the 
youngest, was a bright, merry boy of ten years old. 
The young Marchese seems to have taken his position 
as head of the family very seriously, for two years later 
we find him arranging suitable marriages for his two 
young sisters. 

There had always been a close friendship between 
the princes of Mantua and those of Urbino, dating 
from the time when Federico di Montefeltro and 
Ludovico of Mantua were together under the teaching 
of that most delightful of pedagogues, Vittorino. Now 
the two houses were to become allied by the marriage 
of Guidobaldo, the son and successor of Federico, 
with Elisabetta, and at the same time her sister 
Maddelena was betrothed to Giovanni Sforza^lord of 
Pesaro, who was destined to have so sad a history. 
Their sister Chiara, who had now been married five 
years, came to congratulate them, and spend Christmas 
in her old home. 

Elisabetta's wedding was settled to take place early 
in 1488. She had already seen the young Duke of 
Urbino, who was almost her own age, a handsome boy, 
of cultivated tastes, but afflicted with hereditary gout. 
They appeared to have been mutually attracted to 
each other, and there seemed to be every prospect of 
happiness. But it was a great trial for the tender- 
hearted young girl to leave her home and be parted 
rom her sister and the brothers she was so fond 1 
She set out in February with her escort on the way t 


Urbino, where the wedding was to be celebrated, in 
stormy wintry weather, and broke the journey at Fer- 
rara. There she was received with motherly kindness 
by the Duchess Leonora, and renewed with ihe young 
Isabella, her future sister-in-law, the warm friendship 
which lasted all their lives. They had already met at 
Ferrara several years before, when the duchess and her 
daughter came on a visit to meet Francesco. 

When the bride-elect resumed her travels, passing 
through Ravenna and by the spurs of the Apennines, 
the weather was still worse, the rain came down in 
torrents, and the rivers were so swollen as to be almost 
impassable. But after this trying and dangerous 
journey, at length Elisabetta saw the hill-city of 
Urbino, rising up against the sky on the highest and 
furthest ridge, as though it must command the whole 
width of Italy. Here a magnificent reception awaited 
her. "Ranged upon the hill-slope were the ladies of 
the city, exquisitely dressed, and the children bearing 
olive-branches in their hands. As soon as the bridal 
party came in sight, a screen of mounted choristers 
rose up before them, accompanied by nymphs in 
antique garb ; dogs started off in pursuit of hares let 
loose for them ; the hills resounded with the strains 
of a cantata specially composed ; the Goddess of Mirth 
in person descended the slope and offered the young 
duchess her congratulations and good wishes."* 

Guidobaldo led her by the hand into the splendid 
palace which seemed to climb the last height above 
the city, and whose walls were draped with tapestry 
and cloth of gold, while on every side were bronzes 

and antiques and costly pictures, and books the best 


and rarest. She must have looked with dazzled eyes ; 
but when the time came for parting with her favourite 
brother Giovanni and the escort from Mantua, she felt 
so desolate and forsaken that she burst into tears. 

Still she was not forgotten by her family ; her 
brother, the young Marchese, found time to pay her a 
visit in the summer, and we hear of a constant inter- 
change of letters and presents between them. She was 
also greatly interested in the preparations for the mar- 
riage of her sister Maddelena, which took place in 
October the next year at Pesaro. This lovely spot on 
the sunny shores of the Adriatic is at no great distance 
from Urbino, and it must have been a joy to the sisters 
to feel that they were within reach of each other. The 
Duke and Duchess of Urbino were present at the 
wedding, which was celebrated with much festivity; 
but the strain of all the fatigue which she had gone 
through, was too much for the delicate health of 
Elisabetta, which broke down altogether before the 
winter. She was also full of anxiety with regard to her 
brother Francesco, who had been appointed captain- 
general of the armies of Venice and her allies, a 
position of danger as well as honour, which he filled 
for nine years. But he did not cease to take the most 
affectionate interest in his favourite sister, and when he 
heard of her illness he sent his own physician to attend 
her, accompanied by his secretary, who wrote such an 
unsatisfactory account that it was decided she must 
have a change of air as soon as she was strong enough 
to travel. The bracing winds of the hill-city were too 
keen for her that severe winter, and she longed for her 
native climate of Mantua, 

Thus it happened that <she was present in February 




at the wedding entertainments of her brother and 
Isabella d'Este, and was able to receive the bride on 
her arrival, at the foot of the great staircase of the 
Castello di Corte. She had brought with her from 
Urbino much gold and silver plate, and also the 
splendid tapestries of the Trojan War to hang round 
the great hall, for on such a sumptuous occasion as 
this, princes had no scruples in borrowing from each 
other. The festivities lasted for days; there were 
public banquets in the Piazza, torchlight processions, 
dances, theatrical entertainments and tournaments in 
rapid succession. We cannot wonder that after all 
this the invalid required some rest, and we find that 
she remained at Mantua with Isabella until the follow- 
ing June. The two princesses were devoted to each 
other, and their friendship was one of the most earnest 
and lasting which we read of in history. 

In those troublous days, when political changes were 
so sudden, when every State in Italy had to struggle 
for bare existence, and when a household and family 
was so constantly divided against itself, their unbroken 
affection was almost unique. They had many tastes 
in common ; they both keenly enjoyed travel, they 
were both highly cultured, and had the same passion 
for art and literature and music. Elisabetta had not 
the splendid vitality of her friend, nor her undoubted 
beauty, but she was more gentle and winning, more 
unselfish and affeclionate. We read of her in after 
years that she had "the love and reverence of all," 
41 that peerless lady who excelled all others in ex- 

A charming picture of the happy time spent together 

by these two friends is given by the chronicler of 



Isabella, whose words I venture to quote : "Together 
they sang French songs and read the latest romMtOGS, 
or played scartino — their favourite game of cards — in 
the pleasant rooms which Francesco had prepared for 
his bride on the first floor of the Castello. . . . Together 
they rode and walked in the park, and boated on the 
waters of the lake, or took excursions to the neigh- 
bouring villas ofjPorto and Marmirola." By the middle 
of March the Duchess's health was sufficiently im- 
proved to venture on a longer trip, and on the 15th 
Isabella writes : "To-day, after dinner, with your 
highness's kind permission, the Duchess of Urbino 
and I are going to supper at Goito, and to-morrow at 
Cavriana, where the wife of Signor Fracassa will meet 
us, and on Tuesday we are going to the lake of Garda, 
and 1 have let the Rector of Verona know, so that we 
may find a barge at Sermione." * 

A few days later she wrote from Cavriana : " The 
Duchess of Urbino and I, together with Signor Fra- 
cassa's wife, went on Thursday to dine at Desenzano, 
and to supper at Tuscullano, where we spent the night, 
and greatly enjoyed the sight of this Riviera. On 
Friday we returned by boat to Sermione, and rode here 
on horseback. Wherever we went we were warmly 
welcomed and treated with the greatest attention, most 
of all by the captain of the lake, who gave us fish and 
other things, and by the people of Salo, who sent us a 
fine present. To-morrow we go to Goito, and on 
Tuesday back to Mantua." 

" These Madonnas have been indefatigable in making 
excursions by boat and horseback, and have seen all 
the gardens on the lake with the greatest delight. 



inhabitants have vied with each other in doing them 
honour, and one Fermo, of Caravazo, caused his garden 
to be stripped for the marchesana and her party, and 
loaded them with lemons and pomegranates." So wrote 
one of the gentlemen in waiting. 

It was well that Elisabetta should have recovered her 
health before the terrible blow which awaited her a 
few months later — the sudden death of her sister 
Maddelena. The young wife had been looking forward 
with joy to the birth of her child, when the fatal event 
occurred, and mother and babe were laid in the grave, 
scarcely a year after the festal welcome to Pesaro. It 
was long before her loving sister recovered from the 
shock of this unlooked-for grief, and she little dreamed 
that the day was not far distant, when she would 
visit Pesaro again under other auspices. The Duchess 
of Urbino was in delicate health for some time, and 
we hear of her visiting the baths of Viterbo, where her 
brother sends his chamberlain, Silvestro Calandro, to 
enliven her loneliness, and Isabella writes her the fol- 
iwing letter : 

Dearest Sister, — In my love to you I would have 
you resolve, when you take your first bath, to live only 
on such things suitable to give health and strength. 
And I would have you compel yourself to take daily 
exercise of walking and riding, and to take part in 
cheerful talk, and thus drive away sadness and melan- 
choly, whether from causes of mind or body . . . 
think of your health and comfort, for in this fickle 
world we can do no otherwise, and they who spend 
not their time aright suffer their lives to slip away with 
much sorrow and little praise, . . ." 


a cultivated scholar. With the Latin language, we are 
told, " he was as conversant as others are with their 
native tongue, and so intimate was his knowledge of 
Greek that he was acquainted with its minutest pecu- 
liarities, and its most refined elegance." 

But, unfortunately, from early life he was crippled 
with gout, and quite an invalid. Isabella d'Este re- 
marked of him : " He holds a fine court here, and lives 
in royal splendour, and governs the State with great 
wisdom and humanity, to the satisfaction of all his 
subjects." She paid a long visit on this occasion, and 
when she left, Elisabetta wrote her this characteristic 
little note: "When you departed hence, I felt not 
alone the loss of a dear sister, but of life itself. I can 
but seek to assuage my sorrow by writing to you, and 
telling you on paper that which my lips desire to say. 
1 think you would come back out of pity to me, if 1 
could clearly express my grief. If I feared not to be a 
burden to you, 1 would gladly follow you myself. 
Neither is possible. I can but beg your highness to 
think of me as often as I bear you in my heart." 

The next event of special interest in the life of Elisa- 
betta was her visit to Rome, in the year of Jubilee 
1500. It was a critical time for public affairs, as the 
ambition of Ccesar Borgia filled all Italy with alarm 
and suspicion. The Marquis of Mantua, feeling 
anxious about his sister's safety, wrote at the last 
moment to discourage the pilgrimage. " If you are in 
need of change, come to Mantua, and give us the joy of 
your society. The year is long, and we will go to Rome 
together and visit the holy places at a more convenient 

But the duchess had already started, and the letter 


The poet's page exalts her to the sky 

With life more living in the lifeless tomb, 
And Death translates her soul to reign on high.* 

It will not be out of place to quote here a letter 
written seven years later by the aged Michelangelo to 
his nephew Lionardo : 

44 1 have been asked if I possess any writings of the 
Marchesa. I have a little book bound in parchment, 
which she gave me some ten years ago. It has one 
hundred and three sonnets, not counting another forty 
which she afterwards sent on paper from Viterbo. I 
had these bound into the same book, and at that time I 
used to lend them about to many persons, so that they 
are all of them now in print. In addition to these 
poems I have many letters which she wrote from 
Orvieto and Viterbo. These then are the writings I 
possess of the Marchesa." 

We have no marble monument to record the memory 
of this most noble and perfect lady of the Italian 
Renaissance. She desired to be buried in all respects 
like a Benedictine Sister, and her wish was obeyed, for 
not a stone or tablet marks the place where her body 
rests. But she has left us a touching prayer, a petition 
for peace and happiness in this world and the next, 
which is too typical of her character to omit. 

44 Grant, I beseech Thee, Lord, that by the humility 

that becomes the creature and by the pride Thy 

greatness demands, I may adore Thee always, and that 

in the fear Thy justice imposes, as in the hope Thy 

* J. A. Symonds* Trans. 


clemency justifies, I may live eternally and submit to 
Thee as the Almighty, follow Thee as the All-wise, and 
turn towards Thee as towards Perfection and Goodness. 
I beseech Thee, most tender Father, that Thy living 
fire may purify me, Thy radiant light illumine me ; that 
this sincere love for Thee may profit me in such wise 
that, never finding let or hindrance in things of this 
world, I may return to Thee in happiness and safety/'* 

* Translated from the Latin original. 








Come to the court, and Balthazer affords 
Fountains of holy and rose-water words. 

Guilpin, in his " Skialethia.' 



Amongst the women of the Italian Renaissance, 
Eiisahetta Gonzaga stands out as one of the central 
figures, not only on account of her unique position 
as queen of that court of Urbino, which has become 
the very ideal of intellectual culture, but also from her 
own most interesting personality. Brought up in an 
atmosphere of art and scholarship, she inherited a 
taste for letters from a line of distinguished ancestors, 
and her sweetness of nature lent a new charm to her 
learning and accomplishments. 

She was born at Mantua in 1471, the daughter of 
Federico, eldest sou of the reigning duke, Lodovico, 
most illustrious of his race. Her mother was 
Margaretta of Bavaria, daughter of Duke Sigismond, 
and the old chroniclers give us a very quaint account 
of her arrival in Italy. Her followers were rough and 
uncouth in their speech and manners, they wore 
coarse garments of a red colour and grotesque shape, 
and altogether appear to have shocked the more 
civilised Mantuans. We learn that Federico was most 
unwilling to accept this foreign bride, who is described 


as unattractive ; but the Emperor Frederick had ar- 
ranged the marriage, and it had to be carried out. 
Poor Margaretta seems to have been of a placid, gentle 
disposition, a good wife and mother, but we do not 
hear much about her. She died a year after her 
father-in-law, Lodovico, in 1479, leaving a young 
family of six children. 

Of these, Elisabetta, and her sister Maddelena, 
who was seven at her mother's death, were the two 
youngest girls. Their eldest sister Chiara was married 
a couple of years later to the Due de Montpensier, 
cousin of the King of France, to the great satisfaction 
of her grandmother, the famous Barbara of Branden- 
burg, who died shortly afterwards. Duke Federico 
was very much devoted to his two little daughters, 
and took great pains about their education. An ac- 
complished lady, Violante de' Preti, was their teacher 
and constant companion. They learnt Latin from 
the learned Colombino of Verona, a noted writer on 
Dante, and they had masters for dancing, the lute, and 
singing. Amongst other interesting letters about their 
early education is one written by Violante to their 

11 Illustrissimo principi et excellentissimo domino, 
— You will hear with pleasure that your illustrious 
daughters are well in health, happy and obedient ; 
thus it is pleasure to see them at their books and 
embroidery. They are very docile, and they delight in 
riding their new pony, one having the saddle and the 
other on pillion. Thus they ride in the park, closely 
followed by men on horseback, and we attend them 
behind in the chariot. This pony gives them much 



enjoyment, and no present from your excellency 
could have been more acceptable. By the grace of 
God I will endeavour to send you each day good 
tidings, that your highness may rest content, and I 
commend myself to your favour, — Your servant to 
command, Violante de' Preti. — 14 August, 1481. — 

They had been spending the s 


nmer in the countr 
at the villa of Porto, which was probably needful for 
the health of Elisabetta, who was always delicate. 
The Marquis Federico was much away from home at 
that time, as he took the field in alliance with Kerrara 
and other States, against the Venetians and the Pope's 
nephew. But he kept up his keen interest in works of 
art, and we find him constantly giving directions to 
Andrea Mantegna with regard to the decorations of 
his Mantuan palaces. Had not the constant expenses 
of war been so heavy a drain on his treasury, he would 
have added to the Castello until it rivalled the won- 
derful palace of (Jrbino. 

Another letter from Violante de' Preti gives an ac- 
count of a visit paid to Mantua during the absence of 
the marquis, by Lorenzo dei Medici. He was on a 
journey to Cremona, where a congress was to be held, 
and Francesco, the eldest son of Federico, received 
him in the place of his father. His little sisters were 
introduced to the Magnifico, who sat down and talked 
with them, and seems to have been delighted with 
their courtesy and intelligence. 

The death of their father in 1484 must have been a 

great loss to all his children. He was succeeded by 

Francesco, who was barely eighteen, but who had 



been already betrothed for some years to Isabella 
d'Este, the daughter of the Duke of Ferrara. 
Sigismondo, the second son, was studying at the Uni- 
versity of Pavia, as he was destined for the Church, 
and ultimately became a cardinal. Giovanni, the 
youngest, was a bright, merry boy of ten years old. 
The young Marchese seems to have taken his position 
as head of the family very seriously, for two years later 
we find him arranging suitable marriages for his two 
young sisters. 

There had always been a close friendship between 
the princes of Mantua and those of Urbino, dating 
from the time when Federico di Montefeltro and 
Ludovico of Mantua were together under the teaching 
of that most delightful of pedagogues, Vittorino. Now 
the two houses were to become allied by the marriage 
of Guidobaldo, the son and successor of Federico, 
with Elisabetta, and at the same time her sister 
Maddelena was betrothed to Giovanni Sforza, lord of 
Pesaro, who was destined to have so sad a history. 
Their sister Chiara, who had now been married five 
years, came to congratulate them, and spend Christmas 
in her old home. 

Elisabetta's wedding was settled to take place early 
in 1488. She had already seen the young Duke of 
Urbino, who was almost her own age, a handsome boy, 
of cultivated tastes, but afflicted with hereditary gout. 
They appeared to have been mutually attracted to 
each other, and there seemed to be every prospect of 
happiness. But it was a great trial for the tender- 
hearted young girl to leave her home and be parted 
rom her sister and the brothers she was so fond 1 
She set out in February with her escort on the way t 


Urbino, where the wedding was to be celebrated, in 
stormy wintry weather, and broke the journey at Fer- 
rara. There she was received with motherly kindness 
by the Duchess Leonora, and renewed with the young 
Isabella, her future sister-in-law, the warm friendship 
which lasted all their lives. They had already met at 
Ferrara several years before, when the duchess and her 
daughter came on a visit to meet Francesco. 

When the bride-elect resumed her travels, passing 
through Ravenna and by the spurs of the Apennines, 
the weather was still worse, the rain came down in 
torrents, and the rivers were so swollen as to be almost 
impassable. But afler this trying and dangerous 
journey, at length Elisabetta saw the hill-city of 
Urbino, rising up against the sky on the highest and 
furthest ridge, as though it must command the whole 
width of Italy. Here a magnificent reception awaited 
her. "Ranged upon the hill-slope were the ladies of 
the city, exquisitely dressed, and the children bearing 
olive-branches in their hands. As soon as the bridal 
party came in sight, a screen of mounted choristers 
rose up before them, accompanied by nymphs in 
antique garb ; dogs started off in pursuit of hares let 
loose for them ; the hills resounded with the strains 
of a cantata specially composed ; the Goddess of Mirth 
in person descended the slope and offered the young 
duchess her congratulations and good wishes."" 

Guidobaldo led her by the hand into the splendid 
palace which seemed to climb the last height above 
the city, and whose walls were draped with tapestry 
and cloth of gold, while on every side were bronzes 
and antiques and costly pictures, and books the best 
• Dg Maulde. 


and rarest. She must have looked with dazzled eyes ; 
but when the time came for parting with her favourite 
brother Giovanni and the escort from Mantua, she felt 
so desolate and forsaken that she burst into tears. 

Still she was not forgotten by her family; her 
brother, the young Marchese, found time to pay her a 
visit in the summer, and we hear of a constant inter- 
change of letters and presents between them. She was 
also greatly interested in the preparations for the mar- 
riage of her sister Maddelena, which took place in 
October the next year at Pesaro. This lovely spot on 
the sunny shores of the Adriatic is at no great distance 
from Urbino, and it must have been a joy to the sisters 
to feel that they were within reach of each other. The 
Duke and Duchess of Urbino were present at the 
wedding, which was celebrated with much festivity ; 
but the strain of all the fatigue which she had gone 
through, was too much for the delicate health of 
Elisabetta, which broke down altogether before the 
winter. She was also full of anxiety with regard to her 
brother Francesco, who had been appointed captain- 
general of the armies of Venice and her allies, a 
position of danger as well as honour, which he filled 
for nine years. But he did not cease to take the most 
affectionate interest in his favourite sister, and when he 
heard of her illness he sent his own physician to attend 
her, accompanied by his secretary, who wrote such an 
unsatisfactory account that it was decided she must 
have a change of air as soon as she was strong enough 
to travel. The bracing winds of the hill-city were too 
keen for her that severe winter, and she longed for her 
native climate of Mantua. 

Thus it happened that she was present in February 



at the wedding entertainments of her brother and 
Isabella d'Este, and was able to receive the bride on 
her arrival, at the foot of the great staircase of the 
Castello di Corte. She had brought with her from 
Urbino much gold and silver plate, and also the 
splendid tapestries of the Trojan War to hang round 
the great hall, for on such a sumptuous occasion as 
this, princes had no scruples in borrowing from each 
other. The festivities lasted for days; there were 
public banquets in the Piazza, torchlight processions, 
dances, theatrical entertainments and tournaments in 
rapid succession. We cannot wonder that after all 
this the invalid required some rest, and we find that 
she remained at Mantua with Isabella until the follow- 
ing June. The two princesses were devoted to each 
other, and their friendship was one of the most earnest 
and lasting which we read of in history. 

In those troublous days, when political changes were 
so sudden, when every State in Italy had to struggle 
for bare existence, and when a household and family 
was so constantly divided against itself, their unbroken 
affection was almost unique. They had many tastes 
in common ; they both keenly enjoyed travel, they 
were both highly cultured, and had the same passion 
for art and literature and music. Elisabetla had not 
the splendid vitality of her friend, nor her undoubted 
beauty, but she was more gentle and winning, more 
unselfish and affectionate. We read of her in after 
years that she had "the love and reverence of all," 
"that peerless lady who excelled all others in ex- 

A charming picture of the happy time spent together 

by these two friends is given by the chronicler of 



Isabella, whose words I venture to quote : 4t Together 
they sang French songs and read the latest romances, 
or played scartino — their favourite game of cards — in 
the pleasant rooms which Francesco had prepared for 
his bride on the first floor of the Castello. . . . Together 
they rode and walked in the park, and boated on the 
waters of the lake, or took excursions to the neigh- 
bouring villas of jPorto and Marmirola." By the middle 
of March the Duchess's health was sufficiently im- 
proved to venture on a longer trip, and on the 15th 
Isabella writes : " To-day, after dinner, with your 
highness's kind permission, the Duchess of Urbino 
and I are going to supper at Goito, and to-morrow at 
Cavriana, where the wife of Signor Fracassa will meet 
us, and on Tuesday we are going to the lake of Garcia, 
and I have let the Rector of Verona know, so that we 
may find a barge at Sermione." * 

A few days later she wrote from Cavriana : " The 
Duchess of Urbino and I, together with Signor Fra- 
cassa's wife, went on Thursday to dine at Desenzano, 
and to supper at Tuscullano, where we spent the night, 
and greatly enjoyed the sight of this Riviera. On 
Friday we returned by boat to Sermione, and rode here 
on horseback. Wherever we went we were warmly 
welcomed and treated with the greatest attention, most 
of all by the captain of the lake, who gave us fish and 
other things, and by the people of Salo, who sent us a 
fine present. To-morrow we go to Goito, and on 
Tuesday back to Mantua." 

" These Madonnas have been indefatigable in making 
excursions by boat and horseback, and have seen all 
the gardens on the lake with the greatest delight. The 

* Mrs. Ady. 


inhabitants have vied with each other in doing them 
honour, and one Fermo.of Caravazo, caused his garden 
to be stripped for the marchesana and her party, and 
loaded them with lemons and pomegranates." So wrote 
one of the gentlemen in waiting. 

It was well that Elisabetta should have recovered her 
health before the terrible blow which awaited her a 
few months later — the sudden death of her sister 
Maddelena. The young wife had been looking forward 
with joy to the birth of her child, when the fatal event 
occurred, and mother and babe were laid in the grave, 
scarcely a year after the festal welcome to Pesaro. It 
was long before her loving sister recovered from the 
shock of this unlooked-for grief, and she little dreamed 
that the day was not far distant, when she would 
visit Pesaro again under other auspices. The Duchess 
of Urbino was in delicate health for some time, and 
we hear of her visiting the baths of Viterbo, where her 
brother sends his chamberlain, Silvestro Calandro, to 
enliven her loneliness, and Isabella writes her the fol- 
lowing letter : 

" Dearest Sister, — In my love to you I would have 
you resolve, when you take your first bath, to live only 
on such things suitable to give health and strength. 
And I would have you compel yourself to take daily 
exercise of walking and riding, and to take part in 
cheerful talk, and thus drive away sadness and melan- 
choly, whether from causes of mind or body . . . 
think of your health and comfort, for in this fickle 
world we can do no otherwise, and they who spend 
not their time aright suffer their lives to slip away with 
much sorrow and little praise. . . ." 


The next year, after a visit to the baths of Porretta, 
Elisabetta again went to Mantua, and in the bucentaur 
which met her she found a poet with his lyre, sent to 
cheer the journey with music and singing. Perhaps 
it was on this occasion that Isabella felt a desire to play 
this instrument, and wrote to Milan to borrow a 
marvellous silver lyre to practise on. The next loan 
she asked for was that the Duchess of Urbino would 
send her the "foreign master," Giovanni Santi, the 
father of Raphael, that he might paint some portraits 
for her. Of course the artist at once set out for 
Mantua, but unfortunately he fell ill with fever there, 
and had to return to Urbino before the work was 
finished. He never thoroughly recovered, and died 
the following autumn. Elisabetta thus mentions his 
loss : " Our painter, Giovanni dei Sancti, passed out 
of this life, being in full possession of his senses, and 
in the most excellent disposition of mind. May God 
pardon his soul ! " 

When Isabella went to visit her friend at Urbino that 
same year she was very much impressed with the 
princely magnificence of the palace. In the chronicles 
of the time it is described as " furnished in the most 
sumptuous manner, with vases of silver, rich draperies 
of gold and silk, and other rare and splendid articles. 
To this was added a great collection of statues and busts 
in bronze and marble, and of the most excellent pic- 
tures ; but the pride of the palace and the envy of 
other princes was the superb and copious collection of 
books in the Greek, Latin and other languages, with 
which the library was adorned, enriched with orna- 
ments of silver and gold." The Duke Guidobaldo 
could richly appreciate these precious works, for he was 



a cultivated scholar. With the Latin language, we are 
told, " he was as conversant as others are with their 
native tongue, and so intimate was his knowledge of 
Greek that he was acquainted with its minutest pecu- 
liarities, and its most refined elegance." 

But, unfortunately, from early life he was crippled 
with gout, and quite an invalid. Isabella d'Este re- 
marked of him : " He holds a fine court here, and lives 
in royal splendour, and governs the State with great 
wisdom and humanity, to the satisfaction of all his 
subjects." She paid a long visit on this occasion, and 
when she left, Elisabetta wrote her this characteristic 
little note: "When you departed hence, I felt not 
alone the loss of a dear sister, but of life itself. I can 
but seek to assuage my sorrow by writing to you, and 
telling you on paper that which my lips desire to say. 
I think you would come back out of pity to me, if I 
could clearly express my grief. If I feared not to be a 
burden to you, I would gladly follow you myself. 
Neither is possible. I can but beg your highness to 
think of me as often as I bear you in my heart." 

The next event of special interest in the life of Elisa- 
betta was her visit to Rome, in the year of Jubilee 
1500. It was a critical time for public affairs, as the 
ambition of Cajsar Borgia filled all Italy with alarm 
and suspicion. The Marquis of Mantua, feeling 
anxious about his sister's safety, wrote at the last 
moment to discourage the pilgrimage. " If you are in 
need of change, come to Mantua, and give us the joy of 
your society. The year is long, and we will go to Rome 
together and visit the holy places at a more convenient 

But the duchess had already started, and the letter 


only reached her at Assisi. She wrote at once in 
answer, much disturbed at going contrary to his 

" I lime. Princeps et Exme. Dne. frater." 
"Having left Urbino these few days, and being 
already on my way to Rome to keep the Jubilee, I 
reached Assisi this morning, and your letter arrived 
which would persuade me to desist from going. 
This has given me the greatest distress and immense 
annoyance, as I would wish in all things to yield 
and be obedient to your will, looking up to you as 
in the place of a father. On the other hand, as I 
have said, I am already on the journey, and beyond 
the State, and Signor Fabrizio Colonna and Madonna 
Agnesina, my honoured sister-in-law, have taken a 
house in Rome for me and made all needful arrange- 
ments, and I have promised to be at Marino in four 
days. Signor Fabrizio being on his way to join me, 
I do not see that I can draw back with honour to 
my lord, as the thing is so far advanced, and was 
arranged with his consent. Your excellency need 
have no fear tor my safety, when you learn that I 
first go to Marino, and then 'incognita 1 to Rome 
with Madonna Agnesina, to visit the churches or- 
dained for this holy Jubilee, without showing myself 
or speaking to any person. I shall be lodged all the 
time I stay in Rome in the house of the Cardinal 
Savelli. This is situated as I would wish, in the 
middle of the Colonna quarter, but the greater part 
of my time I will return to Marino and stay there. 
Therefore your excellency need have no doubt or 
anxiety for my safety, though, if I were not already on 



my way, I would have given up my desire, to show 
my obedience to your excellency, not from dread of 
danger or difficulties. Yet since I am already so far 
advanced on my journey, I trust you will be contented 
with this letter, and I pray and supplicate you to write 
to me in Rome, to say that you are satisfied, so that I 
may be able to keep this Jubilee with a happy con- 
tented mind. Otherwise I shall be in continual dis- 
tress and trouble ; and to the good grace of your 
excellency I commit myself. 

"Assisij, ni. Marti, 1500." 

Having written this submissive letter, she continued 
her journey the following day, with a quiet mind. 
Everything seems to have passed off well, as she had 
expected, and she fulfilled the desire of her heart by 
spending Holy Week in Rome, and visiting the various 
churches, St. Peter's, the Tombs of the Apostles, and 
all other objects of her devout pilgrimage. She paid 
another visit before returning home, to the Colonna's 
Castle of Marino, in that gloomy walled city among the 
Alban hills, about twenty miles from Rome, near the 
Lake of Albano. Here she was first introduced to her 
little niece, the daughter of Madonna Agnesina, that 
Vittoria Colonna who, at the age of seven, had already 
been some years betrothed to the Marquis of Pescara. 
Elisabetta must have been much interested in the 
brilliant, intelligent child, who so much resembled her 
in character, and who was so distinguished in after 

On her return to Urbino, the Duchess was much 

distressed to hear of the death of Antonio Gonzaga, a 



brave captain and near connection of her husband, 
whose wife, Emilia Pia, was one of the favourite ladies 
of her court. We shall find her constantly mentioned 
later, in the account of those famous " conversations " 
of the " Cortigiano," when she regained her old bright- 
ness, but at the time she was quite broken-hearted 
by the loss of her husband. Isabella d'Este sent her a 
kind letter in which she reminded her that u it was a 
journey on the which we all shall go . . . and that she 
must seek to submit to the will of God, that her prayers 
for the departed soul might be accepted by Him." 

The next year, Elisabetta heard with dismay that a 
marriage was suggested between the daughter of Pope 
Alexander VI. and the son of Duke Ercole of Ferrara. 
After the death of her sister Maddelena, the widower, 
Giovanni Sforza, had married Lucrezia Borgia and 
been divorced by her, and her second husband had 
been murdered. An alliance with this lady did not 
seem desirable, but the Borgia family were all-powerful, 
and when all the other members of the family had 
accepted the inevitable, the Duchess of Urbino con- 
sented to receive the bride at Gubbio and bear her 
company as far as Ferrara. This journey has been 
fully described in the life of Lucrezia Borgia. The 
Pope was so grateful for the consent of Elisabetta, 
that he had a magnificent litter specially made, in which 
she and Lucrezia could be carried together, wherever 
the roads permitted of it. 

It was a cruel blow that, after she had thus sacrificed 
her feelings and graced the wedding with her courtly 
presence — the very same year she and her husband 
should be victims of Caesar Borgia's treachery. In the 
beginning of June, Lucrezia's brother set forth from 



Rome in great force, and marched through the Umbrian 
plains, leaving terror and desolation behind him. He 
had written friendly letters to the Duke of Urbino, 
asking leave to pass through his State, with the declared 
intention of attacking Camerino. This had been readily 
granted, and when Caesar reached Nocera, he sent an 
embassy to Guidobaldo, asking for the assistance of his 
artillery, and as many soldiers as he could furnish. 

But when Caesar Borgia arrived at Spoleto, he turned 
suddenly up the Furlo Pass — cut by Vespasian through 
the Apennines — hurried along the Flaminian Way, and 
through the valley to Urbino. As we are told by the 
chronicler of the dukes : " On the 20th day of June, 
Guidobaldo, himself the very soul of honour, and not 
suspecting disloyalty in others, rode out in the cool of 
a summer evening to a favourite resort of his, the 
gardens of the Zoccolanti convent, where he sat down 
to supper amid the orange groves, enjoying the peaceful 
rest and soft balmy air ; supposing himself to be in 
absolute security." When a messenger was seen 
approaching in urgent haste, he only supposed that it 
was a letter from his wife, who was enjoying a visit at 
Mantua with her friend, after the wedding of Lucrezia 
Borgia. But what was his dismay, when he found the 
man had ridden hard from Cagli, to warn him that 
Caesar Borgia was marching on Urbino with a large 
army, and was already outside the city walls. The 
passes of the Apennines were already in his possession, 
and it was rumoured that a reward was offered for the 
arrest of the Lord of Urbino. 

Thus taken by surprise, the duke saw that resistance 

was hopeless, and with some difficulty he was persuaded 

to save his life by flight, in company with the young 



heir of Urbino, his nephew Francesco della Rovere. 
"Such ingratitude and treachery was never before 
known," he writes in natural indignation. " I have 
saved nothing but my life, my doublet and my shirt.' 
Fortunately it was in the middle of sum 
would never have lived to tell the tale ; and so after 
many hair-breadth escapes and perilous adventures, he 
and his nephew arrived in safety at the palace of Porto, 
outside Mantua. Here Elisabetta was enjoying the 
peaceful seclusion of those exquisite gardens, with hi 
books and her music, in the company of the Marchesa, 
when the terrible news arrived. 

Isabella thus gives her impression of the event in a 
letter to her sister-in-law Chiara, the Duchess of Mont- 
pensier : " Here at Porto, in peace and content, we 
were taking much pleasure in the society of the 
Duchess of Urbino, who has remained with us since the 
carnival, and we needed but your presence to make our 
happiness complete, when there reached us tidings of 
the unlocked for and most perfidious taking of the 
duchy of Urbino. The duke arrived here himself with 
but four horsemen, having been of a sudden taken by 
surprise and attacked with so much treachery that he 
had a bare escape with his life. The blow has quite 
overwhelmed us, and we are so stunned and distressed 
that we scarce know where we are, and my pity for the 
duchess is so profound that I could have it in my hi 
to wish I had never known her." 

And yet as we know, only three days later, the same 
Isabella could write to her brother, the Cardinal 
Ippolyto d'Este, at Rome, urging him to make any 
effort to secure for her certain treasures which she 
coveted, from the spoils of the matchless palace of 







Urbino 1 But ail this is more fully told in the life of 
the Marchesa. 

The Duke of Valentino had entered the hill-city at 
daybreak on the morning of June 21, and taken pos- 
session of the duchy. It was too late for resistance, any 
vain opposition was checked by imprisonment or the 
dagger. Urbino was treated as a conquered city, and 
all the priceless treasures of that palace, the envy of the 
whole civilised world, were at the mercy of the Roman 
brigand. We are told that for some weeks, a con- 
stant train of mules might have been seen creeping 
down the steep hill side, laden with the stolen wealth 
of gold and silver plate, of rare tapestries, and statues, 
and bronzes, and paintings beyond all price. It is 
impossible to estimate the value of such unique 
works of art, but it must have been more than half 
a million of gold pieces. 

When Lucrezia Borgia heard of her brother's 
treachery, we learn that she was greatly distressed, and 
quite miserable to think that the Duchess of Urbino, 
who had been so kind to her, should have been thus 
treated. " I would not have had this happen for all the 
world I " she exclaimed. 

Meanwhile, the unfortunate fugitives at Mantua were 
not suffered to remain there long, for in self-preservation 
the marquis had to keep on good terms with Ciesar 
Borgia. In September, the duke and duchess left the 
hospitable roof of the Gonzagas, and found a refuge at 
Venice, where they were most kindly received by the 
Signona, who placed at their service a villa at Canareggio 
and even allowed them a small pension, for they were 
absolutely destitute. It must have been a sore trial to 
be thus suddenly cast down from magnificence to real 


poverty ; but Elisabetta's courage never failed her, and 
she refused with indignation the insulting offer of a 
large revenue from Caesar, if she would suffer her 
marriage to be annulled, and her husband would re- 
nounce his duchy and take orders. Anne de Bretagne, 
the noble-hearted French queen, would gladly have 
received her, but nothing would induce her to leave 
Guidobaldo. Her devoted friend and companion, 
Emilia Pia, was a great comfort to her in those days of 
trial, and she had tokens of affection and sympathy 
from all her relations. 

It was impossible for a man of the duke's courage 
and spirit to remain passively in exile, and he seized 
the first opportunity of asserting himself. The Duke of 
Romagna, as Caesar now called himself, had entered 
into a new treaty with Louis XII., which caused much 
alarm to the Italian States in alliance with him. A diet 
was convoked at Perugia, when his conduct was fully 
discussed and blamed ; the news spread, and the people 
of Urbino seized the fortress of that place, asserted their 
independence, and begged their duke to return. 
Guidobaldo set forth at once with eager hopes, although 
he had not been able to induce the Marchese of Mantua 
to give him any help. This was early in October, and 
meantime the wily Borgia had reassured his former 
allies and made a fresh league with them, so that the 
duke was compelled to fly a second time, but not 
before he had dismantled the fortresses within his 
States " to the end they might not be garrisoned by his 
enemies, to keep in subjection a people devoted to their 
rightful sovereign." 

Guidobaldo escaped as far as Citta di Castello, 
where he fell seriously ill, but was unable to send any 



tidings to his wife, who was in terrible anxiety about 
him. Her brother Sigismondo, the protonotary of the 
Pope, went to Venice at this time of trouble to give her 
all the help and comfort in his power, but it was not 
until the end of January that she was relieved by the 
arrival of her husband. There was more trouble in 
store for the poor lady that year, for in June her 
eldest sister Chiara, Duchess of Montpensier, died 
at Mantua. She felt this bereavement very keenly, as 
her touching words bear witness : " I have been 
deprived of high estate, of my home, and of fortune, 
and now I have lost the sister who has ever been to 
me as a mother." 

But a change was at hand of wide-sweeping influence 
over the whole of Italy. On August 18 that same year, 
1505, Pope Alexander VI. died suddenly, and his son's 
power fell like a house of cards. The good news 
spread with marvellous rapidity, and everywhere the 
exiled princes hastened back to claim their lost domi- 
nions. At Venice there was general satisfaction, and 
when the duke received the welcome message he set off 
at once for Urbino, where the people greeted him with 
the wildest acclamations of delight. Eye witnesses tell 
us that such rejoicings were never seen before. " The 
very stones seemed to rejoice and sing out with glad- 
ness." Elisabctta remained at Venice until all should 
have settled down quietly ; and meantime Pope Pius 
III. having only survived his elevation a month, 
Giuliano della Rovere had succeeded him under the 
name of Julius II. The accession of a Pope of his own 
family was a splendid stroke of fortune for Guidobaldo, 
who was appointed captain -general of the Church, 
while his sister's son, Francesco della Rovere, who was 


also nephew to Julius, was publicly acknowledged heir 
to the duchy. 

The duchess took a most courtly leave of the Doge 
and Senate, giving them public thanks for their hospi- 
tality, and then started for Urbino at the beginning of 
December. The following very interesting letter of her 
seneschal to Isabella has been preserved, describing her 

" Illustrissima Madama,— 1 propose with all defer- 
ence to give your highness a record of the entrance 
into Urbino of her Excellency the Madonna, but words 
cannot relate the disasters and mishaps which we 
endured from bad roads and bad hostels on the way 
from Venice to Urbino, At last, as we came within 
four miles of Urbino, all the city streamed forth to meet 
her, chanting Te Deums, bearing olive-branches in 
their hands, and crying : ' Gonzaga e Feltro ! ' When 
we arrived at Urbino a vast number of gentlemen and 
citizens waited at the gates, and came forth to greet her 
with the greatest joy, kissing and pressing her hand 
with tears of affection, in that it was nigh upon three 
hours ere Her Excellency could arrive at the Piazza. 
In face of the Vescovada she dismounted from her 
horse and entered the church, where all the ladies of 
Urbino were assembled, and there was brought to her 
an olive-branch with leaves of gold, and with one voice 
all proclaimed the name of Her Excellency, and with 
great joy embraced her. Upon this, Monsignore the 
Bishop, robed in his vestments, led forward Madonna 
the Duchess by the hand to the front of the high altar, 
where she knelt, and all the priests were there assem- 
bled, and the Te Deum Laudamus, and other devout 


prayers were sung. After the blessing had been spoken, 
they came forth from the church and entered the 
palace, in company with the Bishop and all the priests 
and a great multitude of people, who remained in the 
palace till after midnight. Every day and night has 
Her Excellency been greeted after this fashion. She is 
in good health, and commends herself to your illus- 
trious highness, and, lowly as 1 am, I cast myself at 
your feet. . . . 

" Humile servitor, 

"Alexander, Seneschal." 

Thus was celebrated the return of the duke and 
duchess to their old home, where they were so much 
beloved by their people. But only by slow degrees did 
the dismantled palace regain its former magnificence, 
and the famous tapestries of the Trojan War were lost 
for ever. But most of the rare books and many of the 
art treasures were sent back by Cresar Borgia, in his 
desire to win the favour of Pope Julius, and once more 
life was resumed in that far hill-city, with added splen- 
dour and culture. 

For here, in this court of Urbino, we find ourselves 
of a sudden wafted into an enchanted land. The 
magician whose might has done this is the Count 
Baldassare Castiglione, to whom it occurred in a 
moment of inspiration that he would chronicle the 
"sweet conversation" of the noble personages who 
gathered round the peerless duchess, and that he 
would thus seek to crystallise for ever the evanescent 
charm of the spoken word. 

It was in September 1504 that Castiglione came to 

Urbino, that "island of the blest, the abode of mirth 



and joy and high philosophy/' and to those few years 
which followed, he looked back with tender memories 
all the rest of his life as to a golden age. In his 
" Cortigiano " he has embodied all the most brilliant 
qualities of Renaissance court life, and has brought 
vividly before us the fair ladies with their quick 
intelligence and ready sympathy, and the larger pro- 
portion of gallant knights, poets, men of learning, 
artists, and witty cardinals. Of these we may mention 
the Prince Giuliano dei Medici, third son of Lorenzo 
the Magnificent, who afterwards married Philiberta di 
Savoia, and so became Due de Nemours. For him 
Michelangelo carved that marvellous tomb in Florence, 
with the figures of Day and Night. 

The Signor Cesare Gonzaga, Knight of Jerusalem, 
11 who excelled in letters, in martial prowess, and every 
worthy quality." 

The noble Ottaviano Fregoso, who was afterwards 
Doge of Genoa, and his brother, Federigo Fregosa, 
made Archbishop of Salerno. 

They were of a Genoese family, connected with the 
Duke of Urbino, and their sisters, Margherita and 
Constanza, were in attendance upon the duchess. 
Of Ottaviano it was said that he was " a man the most 
singularly magnanimous and religious of our day, full 
of goodness, genius, and courtesy, a true friend to 
honour and virtue." 

Monsignore Bernardo Bibbiena, Cardinal of Santa 
Maria in Portico, " of pleasing society and charming 

Monsignore Pietro Bembo, a Venetian noble, after- 
wards made cardinal, perhaps the most eloquent 
speaker of all. He was a relation of Caterina Cornaro, 



Queen of Cyprus, and called his 'Asolani' after her 
abode al Asolo. 

The Count Lodovico Canossa, a connection of 

The Ladies Margherita and Ippolyta Gonzaga, related 
to the duchess, Signora Raffaella, and the Lady Emilia 
Pia, the beloved friend and companion of Elisabetta 

Amongst the other guests were Giulio Romano, 
the artist, Giovanni Crislofero, the sculptor, Gasparo 
Palavicino, Alessandro Trivulzio, captain of Florence, 
and Bernardo Ascolti, " Unico Aretino," a man of keen 
wit and trenchant satire. 

They were a delightful company, and there is some- 
thing engaging and attractive even preserved in their 
portraits, as, for instance, that of Castiglione himself, 
painted by Raphael, and now in the Louvre. Some- 
times a great man, a scholar or artist, who chanced to 
be passing through, would be welcomed to the courtly 
circle, as when Pope Julius, on his return to Rome, 
took Urbino on his way, and was honourably and 
sumptuously received, some of his company being so 
attracted that they continued there many days. 

Last of all, but best and brightest, was Elisabetta 
Gonzaga herself, the peerless duchess, sovereign lady 
of that galaxy of talent. "Such was the respect we 
bore the duchess that our very liberty was a bridle ; 
our greatest delight was to please her, our bitterest 
grief to offend her." All who came into her presence 
were attuned to her gentle will and subject to her 
grave and virtuous majesty. Such sway as hers was 
only won by infinite talent, tact, and self-suppression. 
With instinctive subtlety she had to select choice 


spirits and congenial topics, and, with apparent un- 
consciousness, guide the course of conversation, always 
lightly holding the rein, that she might tighten it in a 
moment by a word, a gesture, or " flash of silence." 

" At Urbino the discussions were broken by hunting, 
riding, and hawking parties, by dance and music, but 
all was refined with wit and intellect. In summer the 
brilliant reunion would often be held in the fair 
gardens, on a grassy lawn, under shady trees, sheltered 
from sun and breeze. At other times the meeting 
would have a splendid setting — in a fair palace hall, 
with hangings of silk and tapestry, or of rich cloth of 
gold decked out with a wonderful number of rare 
antiques in marble and bronze, most excellent paint- 
ings, and instruments of music. But the noblest 
ornament of all was the collection of rich and rare 
books in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and the Tuscan 
tongue, with their choice bindings of gold and silver. 
If the hours of the day had been given up to tilt and 
tourney, to every device and pastime meet for noble 
gentlemen, when the evening came all drew together 
where the Duchess was with her ladies, for she was the 
chain which kept all linked harmoniously in pleasant 
converse, subtle imagination, and witty jests." 

In this atmosphere of social ease there was no set 
programme, but the subjects were chosen in hearty 
good -fellowship, which could vary from perfect courtesy 
to affectionate familiarity. In this aristocracy of mind 
there was a sentiment of equality, of high-bred refine- 
ment without pretension or ambition ; the absolute 
freedom of intimate friends who understood each other 
with a half-spoken word, and who could show a gay 
delicacy in playing on the surface — or striking boldly 


into the vast ocean of philosophy. Count Castiglione 
tells us that his purpose in writing "The Courtier" 
was " to make a portrait in painting of the Court of 
Urbino, not of Raphael or of Michelangelo, but of 
some unknown painter, who can but draw the chief 
lines, without setting forth the truth in beautiful 
colours, or with the art of perspective." The idea of 
setting forth various topics in the way of dramatic 
talk, was very popular in the time of the Renaissance, 
to whose spirit the " Dialogues " of Plato, on Love and 
Beauty, appealed so strongly. The "Decameron," the 
" Canterbury Tales," the " Heptameron " are alike in 
this ; but when we compare the work of Boccaccio and 
others with the refined yet brilliant discussions of the 
"Cortigiano," we are amazed at the contrast, and can 
only attribute it to the influence of the beloved 
Duchess, Elisabetta. 

The truths of philosophy, frozen in the mind of 
the lonely student, are brought out into the free 
open air, and take life and strength as they are 
tossed hither and thither in gay dalliance, with keen 
intelligence, humour, and quick sympathy. Old stories 
of classical and mediaeval days become mellowed like 
half-faded figures in some rare tapestry. Many themes 
are lightly touched upon, but the main purpose of the 
book is indicated in the title — to draw the picture of a 
perfect Courtier, the Scholar Gentleman, the ideal 
Knight— henceforth a model for all the Courts of 
Europe, wherein our Sir Philip Sidney may well have 
beheld his own image, Milton had the "Cortigiano" 
in his mind when he said : " 1 call therefore a com- 
plete and generous education that which fits a man 
to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously all 
3J7 * 


the offices both private and public, of peace and 

Spenser declares that the aim of his book is the 
same: "to fashion a gentleman in noble person, in 
virtuous and gentle discipline." We might fill a volume 
with instances of the marvellous influence which the 
work of Castiglione had upon Elizabethan literature, 
as we hear it echoing through the Sonnets of Shake- 
speare, Spenser's Hymns "Of Heavenly Love," "Of 
Heavenly Beauty ; " Ben Jonson, Marlowe, Burton, 
the poets and early dramatists, even the grave Ascham ; 
and, amongst later writers, Shelley's " Hymn to 
Intellectual Beauty" is steeped in the same Italian 

In the conversations recorded of this polished Court 
of Urbino, the play of wit, the quick retort, the delicate 
irony, are inimitable ; and the following extracts can 
do no more than give a faint shadow of its charm : 

" When the evening came the company assembled 
where the Duchess was, each sitting at his will in a 
circle as it always chanced." One evening, when 
subjects for discussion were proposed, it was Mon- 
signore Frederigo Fregoso who suggested that they 
should describe all the qualities which go to the 
making of a perfect courtier. Count Lodovico di 
Canossa was first called upon to speak, and he began 
thus : 

"First, the courtier must be a gentleman born and 
bred, as more will be expected of him, and being of 
the nobler sort, he will desire to excel his ancestors ; 
nobleness of birth, like a clear lamp, showing forth 
both good and evil. Our courtier will need to be born 
full of grace and comeliness, and all qualities of mind 


and body ; and he must have good bringing-up in his 

Then Signor Gasparo Pallavacino objects that noble- 
ness of birth is not indispensable (or a courtier, if a 
man is born fortunate, with the highest gifts of nature. 
But Count Lodovico replies that for the perfect courtier 
noble birth is most desirable, for he is in high estima- 
tion at once, and so much is taken for granted, which 
he has not to prove and display, as a man of low birth 
would need to do. Men are apt to love and hate with- 
out sufficient cause. "The courtier's chief profession 
is arms, and herein he must excel, yet we would not 
have him boastful. . . For unto such may well 
apply the saying of a fair lady,* who courteously 
desired a certain knight, who shall be nameless, to 
dance with her, and on his refusal offered him music 
and other entertainments, but he declared that such 
trifles were not his profession. At last she asked him : 
" What then is your profession, signor ? " 

With a frown, he replied : " To fight." Then said 
the lady : 

"Seeing that you are not now in war, nor in any 
place to fight, 1 marvel that you do not have yourself 
and your harness greased, and hung up with other 
implements of war in an armoury, lest you should 
become even more rusty than you are," There was 
much mirth at this story, but Signor Gasparo main- 
tained that few men who excel in anything what- 
soever, abstain from praising themselves; and on this 
subject there was more general conversation. 

Then Count Lodovico pointed out that the courtier 

must be a perfect horseman, and distinguish himself 

* Said lo be Caterina Sfbrza. 


in all manly sports ; hunting, swimming, wrestling, 
running, leaping, and also in games such as tennis, 
which requires so great quickness and nimbleness, 
But in all his actions, the one essential point is that all 
be done with a certain grace, which cannot be learnt, 
but must come by nature. " Chi ha gratia, quello e 
grato." (Whoso hath grace, findeth grace.) Then fol- 
lows a fine speech on this " Sprezzatura," an untrans- 
latable word, meaning a negligence or apparent 
unconsciousness of his own merit ; a grace beyond 
the reach of art, and not to be acquired. Only by 
magnanimity can he attain unto it, and no education 
can raise a petty soul, nor bestow upon him that 
crowning virtue. " Perhaps I may be able to tell you 
what a perfect courtier should be, but I cannot teach 
you how you may become one," 

Even with the best natural disposition, great study 
and diligence is required to excel ; and the instance 
is given of Messer Galeazzo Sanseverino, who, besides 
his natural advantages, had always excellent men about 
him, and learnt from each, that in which he was most 
admirable. Over preciseness must be avoided, for it 
offends against simplicity, and the crown of art is to 
hide all art, and suffer it to seem like nature. 

A very slight matter betokens knowledge, such as 
the way of taking the weapon in hand, certain first 
notes in singing, or an unstudied line in drawing, or a 
simple graceful movement in dancing. 

The courtier must speak and write well in his own 
language, not seeking out curious and obsolete words ; 
and that he may do this rightly he must have know- 
ledge, and so have somewhat worthy to say. A good 
voice is to be desired in speaking, not too soft and 


subtle as in a woman, nor yet boisterous and rough, 
but clear and sweet with good pronunciation and 
expression, set forth with fit gestures in accord with 
the words. 

" If this courtier speak with such fineness and 
gravity, I doubt whether al! will understand him," was 

"Nay, every one shall understand him," answered 
the count. " He will not be always grave, but will 
speak lightly and pleasantly, with merry conceits, and 
jests when occasion serves. On certain subjects he 
will speak with dignity and vehemence, using figures 
of speech with striking words to arouse and stir the 
mind of his hearers ; yet ever with such ease, that the 
listener may think it an easy matter to do likewise." 
Then followed a discussion upon the various dialects 
of Italy, and on great speakers and writers. After a 
while, Count Lodovico remarked that in "letters is the 
true glory. Noble courage is inflamed by reading the 
deeds of famous captains and great men ; for who 
doth not prefer the getting of that perpetual fame, 
before this poor life that lastelh but a day or two ?" 

The courtier should be a scholar, learned in 
history, in oratory, in poetry, and yet modest 
withal. Monsignore Pietro quotes that sonnet of 
Petrarch, CLIV. : 

Giunto Alessaodro alia famosa tomba 

Del fero Achille, sospiraodo disse : 
'O Fortunate, cbe si chiara Iromba 

Trovasti, e cbi di te si alta scrisse! 

If Alexander envied not Achilles for his deeds, but 
for his fortune in being sung by Homer, we see that 


he esteemed the words of the poet more than the arms 
of the soldier. Poetry was the supreme art, for with 
one stroke the poet paints soul and body. 

Vocal music represents the speech of soul to soul. 
"The courtier should be a musician," continued the 
count, " and should have skill on sundry instruments." 
But the Signor Gasparo thought not so ; for such 
delicacies would make him womanish, and bring him 
to dread death. 

"Speak it not !" cried the Count Lodovico. "For I 
would give high praise to music, which has always been 
renowned ; wise philosophers say the world is made of 
music, and the heavens in their moving make a melody. 
Socrates played the harp, and the stern Lycurgus 
permitted music ; and the great Achilles leamt it of 
Chiron ; and many great men and warriors have loved 
it well. We see it used in holy temples to laud and 
praise God ; and labouring folk beguile their toil with 
song, and prisoners in adversity ; and babes are hushed 
to sleep with it. Music is the charm of life ; its light, 
its sunny grace. No art responds thus to the needs of 
our nature, none brings us such vivid and varied 
emotions. It softens, calms, penetrates us ; it raises us 
to heaven with the quick eager beating of its wings." 

Then the Prince Giuliano said : " I believe that 
music is not only an ornament, but is needful for a 
courtier. . . ." and there was much talk in praise of it. 
Presently the count continued : 

" 1 would also have him to learn the art of drawing, 
which beside being of itself most noble and worthy, is 
of great use in war, to draw countries, rivers, bridges, 
fortresses, and such like." 

The Lady Emilia, turning to Afesser Cristofe 


Romano, asked of him : "How think you ? Is painting 
of greater worth than carving ? " 

He answered: "To my mind carving is of more 
labour, art and dignity than painting. . . ." But the 
count still upholding painting, Cristofero replies that 
surely he has Raphael in his mind ; the artificer rather 
than the art. . . . but is interrupted by a burst of 
eloquence in praise of painting : "The sculptor cannot 
show the colour of golden hair, and the delicate flesh, 
nor the brightness of the eye, nor the glistening of 
armour, nor a dark night, nor a sea tempest, nor the 
burning of a city, nor the rising of the morning, in the 
colour of roses, with beams of purple and gold. It 
alone can discourse of Nature, reproduce for us the 
starry skies, hills and woods, gardens and rivers and 

Much more was said on that topic, when of a 
sudden, there was heard a sound of many footsteps on 
the floor, and a tumult of voices, and turning they saw 
at the chamber door a great light of torches; and 
presently there entered, with a great and noble train, 
the Lord General, who returned from accompanying 
the Pope a part of the way towards Rome. He joined 
awhile in the discourse with much pleasure ; then, as it 
grew, late, the Duchess desired the Lady Margherita and 
the Lady Costanza Fregosa to show them a dance, 
which they did, hand in hand, to the sound of sweet 
music. Then the Duchess arose, and every man taking 
his leave reverently of her, departed to his rest. 

The last evening was the crown and flower of all. 
The first subject of discussion was the duty of a perfect 
courtier towards his prince, whom he must guide into 
ways of wisdom and nobleness. We are told that " we 


need a kingship in the world, for which justice and 
intellectual beauty are the qualifications, and which is 
thus more real and of divine right than any other. The 
love of gold, the love of power and pleasure can only 
reign in a world of night, when we have eyes, but cannot 
see ; " when we have lost our enthusiasm and are dead to 
all higher things. 

As music, sports, pastimes, and other pleasant 
fashions are the flower of courtliness, so the training of 
the prince to goodness is the fruit of it. Then followed 
an eloquent description of the ideal prince, whereupon 
one of the company protested : " But a ruler with all the 
qualities the Prince Giuliano would bestow upon him is, 
I fear, like the Commonwealth cf Plato, and we shall 
never see such, unless it be in heaven." 

The Lord Ottaviano answered that truly it was rare for 
the heavens to bring forth so excellent a prince, and 
yet he did not despair, as for his own part he had great 
hope of Duke Guidobaldo's nephew and heir. 

Upon this the Duchess gracefully remarks : " You 
have gathered together so much, my lord, and so 
well, concerning courtliness, that we may truly say that 
you are not only the perfect courtier whom we seek, 
but also it may be the good prince yourself, which 
should not be without great profit to your country." 

We who look back on the story of the past, are 
interested to find the gracious prophecy fulfilled — as 
the gallant Signor Ottaviano Fregoso became Doge of 
Genoa, in 1513. 

As the book of the "Courtier" draws to an end, 
Baldassare Castiglione makes a supreme effort, and 
suddenly launches forth into a rapt exposition of the 
Platonism of the Renaissance; those "solemn har- 



monies of unearthly music." The subject of the 
courtier as a lover, he assigns to Pietro Bembo, 
who had already written, in high Platonic strain, a book 
of dialogues on the miseries and joys of lovers, called 
"Gli Asolani"; and who now pours forth his impas- 
sioned outburst. 

Beginning with a masterly exposition of Platonic 
views on love and beauty, "a little discourse to declare 
what love is, and wherein consists the happiness of 
lovers," he earnestly declares that beauty is a holy 
thing, and that we may not be so profane and wicked 
as to speak ill of it, and thereby draw down upon us 
the wrath of God. Love is a desire of beauty, and 
heavenly love is the soul's desire for ideal beauty. 

What eyes cannot see with the rays of celestial 
light ? Of a truth, for the sake of the beloved one, the 
lover deserts parents and brothers and friends; he 
despiseih all those riches and honours of the world 
which he valued before, seeking the heavenly part 
rather than the earthly. He desireth only the bright- 
ness of divine majesty, which filleth his soul with 
wonder. And this is Love. . . The " influsso " of 
divine beauty shines on all the created world. It rests 
like a ray of light on a fair face, "with marvellous 
grace and glistening like the beams of the sun, striking 
on precious fine-wrought gold, set with precious gems," 
adding to its beauty, shining through it and delighting 
the soul. " Let us therefore turn to this most holy light 
which showeth the way to heaven ; let us climb up the 
steep stairs to the high place where the heavenly 
beauty dwelleth, and there shall we find a most happy 
rest, and a sure haven in the troublesome storms of 
the tempestuous sea of this life." 


At the end, the devout Platonist breaks out into a 
rapturous invocation, of which this is but a fragment : 
" Oh I most holy love, who can praise thee aright ? 
Most beautiful, most good, most wise, that comest 
from divine wisdom and returnest thither 1 Thou 
sweetest bond of unity, bringing discords into har- 
mony, changing foes into friends, giving fruit to the 
earth, calm to the sea, and to heaven its light of life 1 

" Vouchsafe to lighten our darkness with the bright- 
ness of thy most holy fire, and show us the right way, 
thou who art the beginning and end of all goodness. 
Give us to hear thy heavenly harmony, that the discord 
of passion may have no more place in us. With the 
shining beams of thy light, purge our eyes from misty 
ignorance, that they be no more set on mortal beauty. 
Burn our souls in the living and cleansing fire, that 
they be sundered from the body, and joined with a 
most sweet and everlasting bond to the heavenly 
beauty 1 So shall we be raised trom earth and admitted 
to join the feast of angels on high. , ." 

As the speaker came to an end, he was so ravished 
with the images which he had called up, that he stood 
unconscious of all around him, until the Lady Emilia 
touched him and said : 

"Take heed lest these thoughts draw not your soul 
to forsake the body, Monsignore Pietro." 

"Madonna," he replied, "it would not have been 
the first miracle that love hath wrought in me.'' 

The conversation, which continued for a while after 
this, had so entranced the listeners that they took no 
note of time until they were startled by the coming 
of daylight. "When the windows were thrown open 
on that side of the palace which looks towards the 


lofty crest of Mount Catari, they found the east aglow 
with rosy dawn, and the stars faded away save only 
Venus, the sweet ruler of the heaven, who keepeth the 
bounds of day and night. From thence came a soft 
breeze which awoke the song of birds amid the wooded 
groves of the hillside. 

"Whereupon they all took leave with reverence of 
the Duchess, and departed homeward without torches, 
the light of day sufficing." * 

It is with somewhat of the same feeling that, after 
this fair Platonic vision, we return to the light of 
common day. But such moments of high enthusiasm 
cannot long endure, and the golden years of Castig- 
lione all too soon came to an end with the death of 
Duke Guidobaldo in April 1508. 

Too often in this life, if we but turn over the page 
of our story, all is changed. In the allusion to the 
Duke's illness, we have already a foreboding of coming 
disaster in this interesting letter written by the Duchess 
to her friend, Isabella d'Este, in 1507. 

" It is a month since I received the letter of your sig- 
noria, with joy and delight beyond words, and if 1 would 

* " II Cortigiano" was translated into English in 1552 by Sir 
Thomas Hoby, and became the delight of Elizabethan writers, 
to whom Italy was a land of Arcadia. It was the Bible of 
Platonism and a code of esthetics for all Europe, and may be 
looked upon as an epitome of the moral and social ideas of the 
Renaissance. It was translated into Spanish by Boscan in 1540, 
and into French by Jacques Colin, secretary to King Francois I., 
In 1538 Castiglione was a favourite name in the circle of Mar- 
guerite of France. His influence still lasted in England in the 
days of Dr. Johnson, who remarks : " The best book that ever 
was written upon good breeding, ' II Cortigiano,' by Castiglione, 
grew up at the little Court of Urbino, and you should read It." 


speak or write the joy and content I take in reading 
your eagerly looked-for and valued letters, it would 
take me an eternity. Yet if you but understood the 
happiness they give, I know you would give your 
secretary more frequent labour. . . . Though your 
excellency would raise my jealousy by reciting all the 
great and splendid things you have seen at Milan, I 
make answer that I feel no envy whatever. What 
sight can out-do that of Rome ? I beheld that city, 
now and ever the first in the world, with all its wonder- 
ful treasures of ancient and modern times, to my un- 
ceasing amazement and delight. I saw the Pope 
representing God on earth, with around him the whole 
Roman court, second to no other. I own that your 
signoria has seen splendid sights, but had you beheld 
these, you would count them less. Of one matter I 
can make my boast with more cause than your excel- 
lency, which is that if I have visited Rome but once, yet 
Rome and the Roman court has come hither to visit 
me at Urbino, not once but twice at Urbino. . . . My 
lord duke has made a good recovery from his illness. 
I am in good health, and trust to hear that you are 
likewise. " Your sister, 

" Elisabetta, Duchess of Urbino. 

" Urbino, September 7, 1507." 

That winter was very severe at Urbino, and Guido- 
baldo, who had been seriously out of health for years, 
became steadily worse, and died on April 1 1 the next 
spring, at the age of thirty-six. " During his long 
and painful illness he had studied his complaint and 
watched the slow-paced approach of death, knowing 
perfectly that neither the pleasant climate of Urbino 



nor the most assiduous attentions would retard by 
an hour. And yet, even under the burden of his 
last anguish, he retained full possession of his intel- 
lect, with its charm and flame and serenity. His 
friends pretended not to have given up hope; 'why 
envy me so desirable a blessing?' he said to them 
gently. 'To be freed from this load of terrible suffer- 
ing—tell me, is it not a blessing ? ' At the very last he 
turned to Castiglione and recited to him one of the 
finest passages in Virgil. Thus with noble colloquies, 
men lulled even pain asleep." • 

Guidobaldo, the " Good Duke," was laid to rest by 
the side of his father, in the convent of the Zocco- 
lanti friars, standing in the midst of his favourite 
gardens and orange groves. A solemn requiem 
mass was held in the cathedral, and his old tutor 
spoke his funeral oration with touching sympathy. 
As for Elisabetta, she was broken-hearted, and prostrate 
with exhaustion, for she had nursed her husband with 
the most devoted affection. The diplomatic agent sent 
from Mantua with condolences, thus reports his inter- 
view with her : 

" I found this illustrious Madonna in her room 
among her ladies, all in black, the shutters closed, 
and only one torch placed upon the floor. She was 
seated upon a cushion, a black veil upon her head, 
. . . and I could scarcely see. She held out her 
hand and burst into tears ; a moment passed before 
her sobs and mine permitted us to speak. . . . 

"The funeral ceremonies, as Signor Giovanni has 

told you, were sumptuous. There were 825 mourners, 

wearing long cloaks with trains and hoods. All the 

* De 


friars and priests of the State and five bishops were 
present, and stood round the catafalque, with an infinite 
number of lighted torches. . . . The universal grief 
and lamentation here is beyond words to describe." 

The widowed Duchess appears to have behaved 
with admirable wisdom in her new position, and to 
have so managed the affair of Urbino that her hus- 
band's nephew Francesco Maria della Rovere suc- 
ceeded peacefully to his inheritance. Her youngest 
brother Giovanni, who was devoted to her, came to 
be with her at this time, and he writes : " There was 
never so wise and prudent a Madonna, she is indeed 
to be praised in all she does." 

She remained at the court, where she was treated 
with reverence and affection, and in the following 
year we find her going to Mantua to fetch the bride 
of the new Duke ; Leonora Violante, the young 
daughter of her friend Isabella d'Este, who was ex- 
tremely anxious by this marriage to win the favour 
of the Pope. At this time, her husband, Duke 
Francesco, was in a Venetian prison, and she had 
sore need of every powerful friend. This is how she 
alludes to the matter : 

"We have been here entertaining the Duchess of 
Urbino, and a large and honourable company at large 
expense, but with much gladness. In a few days she 
will take back our young Duchess, whom we gladly 
send with her, trusting that his Holiness will now 
show us still more favour, and all the more as we 
hear that his Beatitude wishes her and the duke to 
come to Rome for the pontifical celebration of their 
marriage." The Pope had shown his interest by 
sending a splendid litter for the bride, of cloth of 



silver with gold cords, carried by two handsome 
pages in liveries to match, and also a fine dapple-grey 
horse with rich trappings. 

Once more we have the account of a wedding journey 
in winter, with the doleful tale of hardships and mis- 
adventures. There was so thick a marsh fog when 
they left Mantua that before they reached their first 
resting place they lost their way and wandered about 
for hours in the dark. When at length they arrived as 
far as Modena and Bologna, they were hospitably re- 
ceived with banquets and dances ; but as they rode on 
towards Faenza, the Santerno was in flood, and they 
were nearly drowned in crossing a mountain tributary. 
The stream was so full, and the rush of water had been 
so sudden, that a chariot with two ladies of honour and 
their luggage actually floated for some distance, the 
oxen who drew it being swept off their feet by the 
violence of the current. The rest of the journey was 
after the same fashion, through heavy rain and the 
worst of roads. Yet every precaution had been taken, 
but "the astrologer who fixed the date and hour of 
departure must certainly have made a false calculation," 
as Isabella wisely remarks. 

At length the hill of Urbino was reached in safety, 
and the duke rode out to meet and welcome his bride 
and his aunt Elisabetta, and escorted them to the 
palace, which was splendidly prepared for them. The 
elder lady seems to have been very much attached to 
Leonora, whom she treated like her own daughter, 
with the image of the dearly-loved mother ever before 
her. It must have been a new link between the two 
friends of so many years. Early the next spring, when 
the Duke of Urbino took his wife to Rome, Elisabetta 


was included in the Pope's invitation, and the two 
ladies used every effort to induce Julius II. to obtain 
the freedom of the Duke of Mantua. He would reply 
with gracious good temper : " Have a little patience, 
my children ; " but it was not until the following July 
that Leonora was gladdened by her father's liberty. 

This was in 15 11, and for a few years the ducal 
family lived in peace and happiness. A little son was 
born to the young Duchess in 15 14, and baptized 
Guidobaldo, after the late duke ; but already there were 
storms on the horizon, since the death of Pope 
Julius II. and the accession of the Medici Pope, 
Leo X. In 1515 the Duke of Urbino was deprived of 
his office of Gonfaloniere of the Church, and in vain 
Elisabetta went to Rome to plead his cause. He was 
excommunicated and deprived of his estates. After a 
vain resistance he cast his guns into the river, and fled 
with the two duchesses to Pesaro, from whence they 
embarked to travel by sea to Mantua. After a terribly 
stormy passage, in which they were almost driven on 
to the Slavonian shore, they at length reached the little 
village of Pietole, which became for some time the 
refuge of the unfortunate exiles, until the ladies were 
permitted to occupy rooms in the Castello of Mantua. 

The following year, Francesco Maria made a vain 
but gallant attempt to regain his duchy, and after eight 
months was compelled to make terms with the Pope, 
who paid the arrears due to his army, and gave him 
leave to take his guns and his precious library of books 
to Mantua. He also carried with him fifty-six banners, 
a barren honour when they were in such great straits 
of poverty ; for the stolen dowries of the two ladies 
were never restored to them, and they had to melt 



down all that remained to them of gold and silver 
plate. The Marquis of Mantua showed them much 
kindness, and made them a yearly allowance of 
6000 ducats, which he also continued to them by his 
will when he died in 1519. His sister and his daughter, 
the two exiled Duchesses of Urbino, were present at 
his death-bed, and he took an affectionate leave of 

Their long and sad exile continued until the death of 
Pope Leo X. in 1522, when without delay the Duke of 
Urbino set out once more to recover his dominions; 
his people rose in arms against the papal governor, and 
greeted him with the old cry : " Feltre 1 Feltre ! " 
It must indeed have been a glad return for Elisabetta 
and Leonora. 

We next hear of a visit paid to them at Pesaro by 
Isabella d'Este on her way to Rome, three years later. 
On this occasion, it was her young grandson Guido- 
baldo who rode forth beyond the gates to meet her, 
while the ladies awaited her coming at the great stair- 
case of the lovely palace of the Sf orzj_ The dowager 
Duchess was already in failing health, and this was 
their last meeting, for early in January the next year, 
just after the shock of losing her beloved brother, 
Cardinal Sigismondo, she passed away from a world 
where she had so nobly played her part, and which 
would ever remain the poorer for her loss. 

In his Prefatory Epistle to the " Cortigiano," it is 
with a sudden cry of grief that Baldassare Castiglione 
alludes to the death of his peerless lady, Elisabeth: 
Gonzaga. "But that which cannot be spoken without 
tears is that the Duchess, she also is dead. And if my 
mind be troubled with the loss of so many friends . . . 
353 * 


that have left me in thi9 life, as it were in a wilderness 
full of sorrow, yet with how much more grief do I bear 
the affliction of my dear lady's death, than of all the 
rest ; since she was more worthy than all, and I more 
bounden to her." 

His great work was partly written as a memorial of 
his "most excellent lady/' who remained all his life 
highly enshrined in his soul. 

Pietro Bembo never forgot his happy life at her 
court, and he says of the Duchess : " I have seen many 
excellent and noble women, and have heard of some 
who were as illustrious for certain qualities, but in her 
alone among women, all virtues were united and 
brought together. 

" I have never seen or heard of any one who was her 
equal, and know very few who have even come near 



AlGNADELLA, battle Of, 202 

Alexander VI., 122, 163, 252, 253, 254, 257, 258, 260, 261, 263, 265, 

270, 272, 275, 326, 331 
Alopo, Pandolpho, 95 
Angelo, Michel (sec Michelangelo) 
Anjou, Louis of, 95, 98, 99, 100 
Aquila, 99 
Aragon, Alfonso of, 98, 99, 100, 129 

Giovanna of, wife of Ascanio Colonna, 293 

Joan of, 107 

Isabella of, or Naples, 29, 108, 112, 120, 124, 125, izq, 130, 141 
Ardinghelli, Niccolo, 51 
Ariosto, 39, 122, 172, 173, 175, 274, 276, 281 
Ascham, 337 

Ascolti, Bernardo (Unico Aretino), 335 
Asolo, 198, 199, 200, 201, 334 
Assisi, 159, 324 
Asti, 128 

Augustine, St., 42, 304 
d'Avalos, Alfonso (Marchese del Vasto), 285, 291, 306 

Beatrice, 284 

Costanza, 282, 283 

Ferrante Francesco (Marchese of Pescaro), 282, 283, 284, 287 
288, 290 
Avignon, 85 

Bavaria, Margaretta of, 313 

Bayard, 277, 278 

Bellini, 152, 172, 175 

Bembo, Pietro, Cardinal, 7, 201, 276, 294, 296, 334, 341, 345, 346, 




Bentivoglio, Ulisse, 225 
Bibbiena, Bernardo, 19, 246, 334 
Bisaglia, Alfonso, Duke of, 261, 262, 263 

Roderigo (of Bisaglia), son of Lucrezia Borgia, 204, 270, 277 
Boccaccio, 75, 76, 81, 93, 337 
Boiardo, Matteo, 10 
Bologna, 166, 169, 232, 245, 296, 331 

Bentivoglio, Lord of, 243, 245 
Bona, Duchess of Milan (see Savoy) 
Bonaventuri, Pietro, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210 

Giovanni Battista, 205 
Borgia (see Alexander VI.) 

Caesar, 39, 161, 162, 252, 253, 258, 261, 265, 266, 270, 271, 275, 

277. 323, 326, 3*7i 329, 330, 333 
Giovanni, 258, 261 

Lucrezia, 11, 19, 162, 165, 257-280, 326, 329 

Bormio, 133 

Boschetti, Isabella, 170 

Bourbon, Charles de ( 168 

Bracciano, 60 

Braccio, 99 

Brandeburg, Barbara of, 314 

Brasca, Erasmo, 140, 142, 143, 144, 145 

Brenta, river, 199 

Bretagne, Anne de, 7, 132, 140, 171, 174, 178, 330 

Burchard, 262, 263, 265 

Burton, 337 

Caimi, Violante, 145 
Cafaggiuolo, villa, 49, 54, 67, 70, 214 
Cagli, 327 

Caiazzo, Count, 250, 251 
Calandro, Silvestro, 321 
Calcagnini, 180 
Calvin, 177, 304 
Cambray, treaty of, 176, 202 
Camerino, 327 
Canareggio, 329 

Canossa, Lodovico, 335, 338, 339, 341, 342 



Capello, Andrea, 211, 212 

Bartolommeo, 204, 205, 219 

Bianca, 204-425 

Pellegrina, 207, 225 

Vittorio, 216 
Capua, 282 

Carraccioli, Gianni, 97, 98, 99, 100 
Careggi, villa of, 67 
Castel Nuovo, Naples, 80, 84 
Castiglione, Baldassare, 167, 292, 333-35<>> 353 
Catania, 77 

Catanei, Vanozza, 258, 270, 277 
Catari, Monte, 347 
Caviceo, 278 
Cavriano, 320 

Charles, Duke of Calabria, 76 
Charles, Emperor, 287, 288 
Charles II. of Naples, 76 
Clement VI., 86 

Clement VII., 57, 90, 167, 178, 289, 293 
Codronchi, 242 
Colombino of Verona, 314 
Colonna, Ascanio, 293, 305 

Fabrizio, 281, 284, 324 

Giulia, 306 

Palazzo, 168 

Vittoria, 7, 27, 42, 43, 179, 180, 281-309, 325 
Commines, 112 
Como, lake of, 41 
Condivi, Ascanio, 297, 306 
Constantinople, 4 
Cornaro, Andrea, 194 

Caterina, 11, 187-203, 334 

Fiorenza, 188 

Giorgio, 196, 202 

Marco, 188, 194, 202 

Violante, 188 
Correggio, Niccolo di, 10, 122. 161 
Corte, Benardino da, 148 
" II Cortigiano " of Castiglione, 333-350, 353 
Costa, 161 



Faenza, 234-272, 351 
Famagusta, 193 
Farnese, Julia, 259, 260 
Fausta, Livia, 37 
Feo, Giacomo, 247, 248 

Tomma8o, 242, 243, 244 
Ferdinand, or Ferrante, of Naples (see Naples) 
Ferrara, 106, no, 153, 169, 172, 173, 176, 268, 269, 273, 294 

Leonora, Duchess of (see d'Este) 
« Fiammetta," 81 

Florence, 47-81, 204, 249, 297, 334 
Foligno, 271 
Fontainebleau, 172 

Forli, 234, 236, 237, 242, 243i *48> 252, 272 
Fornova, battle of, 131, 160 
Fra Roberto, 82 
Fracostoro, 306 
France, Charles VIII., King of, 121, 126, 128, 129 

Francois I., 165, 167, 169, 171, 287 

Henri II., 181 

Louis XII., 163, 169, 171, 262 

Marguerite of (see Navarre) 

Ren6e of, Duchess of Ferrara, 43, 169, 170-183, 294 
Frederick III., Emperor, 140, 314 
Fregoso, Costanza, 334, 343 

Federigo, 334, 338 

Margherita, 334, 343 

Ottaviano, 334, 344 

Galeazzo Sanseverino (see Sanseverino) 

Gallerini, Cecilia, 114, 118, 162 

Galluzzi, 216 

Garda, lake, 320 

Garzia, Eleonora di, 214 

Gebhardt, 43 

Gerson, 7 

Ghirlandajo, 48 

Giacomo of Minorca, 88 

Giordano, Vicenso, 264 

Giotto, 80, 89 



Giovanna of Austria, 209, 211, 218 

Giovio Paolo, 277, 286 

Goito, 320 

Gonzaga, Antonio, 325 
Cesare, 324 

Chiara of, Duchess of Montpensier, 159, 314, 316, 328, 331 
Elisabetta, Duchess of Urbino, 156, 159, 162, 167, 253, 271, 

272, 282, 313-354 
Ercole, Cardinal, 163, 166, 167, 168 
Federico I., Duke of Mantua, 313, 314, 315 
Federico II., Duke of Mantua, 161, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 16 

291, 292 
Ferrante, 168 
Francesco, Marchese of Mantua, 36, 108, no, 131, 154, 155, 

160, 161-165, 278, 315, 317.318, 323. 350, 352. 353 
Giovanni, 316, 318,350 
Ippolyto, 335 
Leonora Violante, Duchess of Urbino, 158, 163, 164, 166, 

351, 353, 353 

Lodovico, Duke of Mantua, 313, 314 

Lucrezia, 178 

Maddelena, 259, 314, 318, 321 

Margherita, 335 

Sigismondo, Cardinal, 116, 316, 353 

Vincensio, 211 
Gonzago, Agostino, 295 
Gregorovius, 257, 263, 280 
Guarino, Battista, 109 
Gubbio, 271, 326 
Guglielmo of Austria, 95 
Guise, Duke Francois de, 17S 

Heidelberg, 182 
" Heptameron," 337 
Hoby, Sir Thomas, 24, 347 
Hungary, Andreas of, 79, 80, 83 

Carobert, King of, 79 

Matthias Corvinus, King of, 138 

Imola, 232, 236, 239, 242, 248 



Innocent VIII., 122, 241,245-281 

Innsbruck, 140, 150 

Ischia, island of, 282, 283, 289, 293 

Jacques de Bourbon, 96 

James IV., King of Scotland, 139 

Jews, edict to protect, 276 

Johnson, Dr., 347 

Jonson, Ben, 338 

Julius II., 40, 164, 165, 201, 276, 331, 333, 335, 343, 352 

Larnaca, port of, 190 

Latino, Cardinal, 61 

Leo X., 41, 68, 69, 166, 167, 209, 279, 352 

Livy, 209 

Loches, dungeon of, 163 

Lotti, Lorenzo, 201 

Louis XII., King of France, 262 

Lusignan, Guy de, 187 

Luther, 42, 304 

Machiavelli, 50, 66, 209, 251, 252, 266 
Macinghi, Alessandra, 33 
Madrid, treaty of, 167 
Malatesta, Roberto, 239, 240 
Malespini, Celio, 216 
Mantegna, Andrea, 156, 158, 160, 161, 315 
Mantua, 8, 115, 167, 168, 313, 315, 319, 329, 351, 35* 
Marino, city of, 281, 289, 324, 325 
Marlowe, 337 
Marmirola, villa of, 320 
Marot, Clement, 176 
Martello (dwarf), 34 
Martin, V., 97 
Masuccio, 77 

Maulde de la Claviere, 33, 159, 161, 169, 233 
Maximilian, Emperor, 37, 126, 128, 129, 132, 133, 140, 141, 144, 
145, 146, 149 



Maximilian II., 209 
dd Medici, Bianca, 52 

Carlo, 33, 63 

Clarice (Orsini), wife of Lorenzo, 51, 52, 54, 60-71, 214 

Contessina, 63, 68 

Cosimo, 11 Vecchlo, 21 f 23, 49 

Cosimo I., Grand Duke of Tuscany, 207 

Eleanora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I., 207 

Eleanora (Gonzaga), daughter of Francesco, 211 

Ferdinando, son of Cosimo I., 208, 213, 214, 219, 222, 223, 224 

FUippo, son of Francesco, 216, 221 

Francesco, son of Cosimo I., 207, 208, 210, 211, 213, 218, 219, 
220, 221, 222, 223, 224 

Garzia, son of Cosimo I., 207, 208 

Giovanna, 29 

Giovanni, husband of Catarina Sfbrza, 249 

Giovanni delle Bande Nere, 255, 256 

Giovanni, son of Cosimo I., 207 

Giuliano, brother of Lorenzo, 50, 55, 56 

Giuliano, son of Lorenzo, 334, 342, 344 

Isabella, daughter of Cosimo I., 208, 213, 214, 215 

Lorenzo the Magnificent, 41, 47, 52, 53, 54, 107, 136,209,218, 

230. 3i5 
Lucrezia (Tornabuoni), mother of Lorenzo, 41, 47-59 

Lucrezia, 68, 70 

Luisa, 68, 71 

Maddelena, 71 

Maria, 52 

Maria, wife of Henry IV., 211 

Nannina, 53 

Piero il Gottoso, 49, 50, 53, 54 

Piero, son of Lorenzo, 54, 67, 129 

Pietro, son of Cosimo, 214 

Michelangelo, 161, 262, 296, 297, 298, 299, 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 

Michelozzi, 50 

Milan, 141 

Milton, 337 

Modena, 172 

Monferrat, 170 

Monluc, Blaise de, 37 



Montaigne, 207 
Montarges, castle of, 183 
Montefeltro, Agnesina, 281, 324, 325 

Guidobaldo (see Urbino) 
Montmorency, Constable of, 294 
Morata, Olympia, 180, 181, 182 

Pellegrino, 181 
Morone, 288 
Mugello, 49, 55 

Naples, Alfonso of, 106, 125, 128 

Federico of, 282 

Ferdinand, or Ferrante, I., King of, 101, 106, 108, 128 

Ferrante II., King of, 130, 161, 190, 195 

Giovanna I., Queen of, 73-93 

Giovanna II., Queen of, 94-101 

Ladislaus of, 95 

Leonora of (see d'Este) 

Maria of, 76, 81, 82, 85 

Robert, King of, 76, 78 

Sancha, Queen of, 78 
Navagaro, Andrea, 203 
Navarre, Margaret of, 171, 176, 293, 294 
Nepi, 264 

Nicosia, 187, 191, 196 
Nocera, 327 
Nola, 99 
Novaro, battle of, 131, 286 

Ochino, Fra Bernardino, 179, 295, 296 
Odorici, 213 

d'Ollando, Francesco, 298, 299 
Ombrone, river, 223 
Ordilaffi, 236, 239 

c * Orlando Furioso," 39, 173, 276, 281 
Orleans, Louis of, 36, 128, 131 
Orsi, Cecco, 243 
Lorenzo, 243 



Orsini, Clarice (see Medici) 
Orsini family, 60 

Adriana, 259, 260, 269 

Jacopo, 62 

Paolo Giordano, 208, 2x4, 215 
Orvieto, 293, 305 
Osanna, Beata, 158 
Otho of Brunswick, 90, 97 
Otranto, 238 

Padua, 188 

Paglia, river, 305 

Paleologa, Margherita, 170, 291 

Pallavicino, Gasparo, 335, 339 

Paracelsus, 38 

<' Paradiso " of Isabella d'Este, 166, 170 

Paris, 171 

Paul III., 182, 304 

Pavia, battle of, 167, 287 

Castello of, 66, 115, 116, 136 

Certosa of, 105 
Pazzi, Guglielmo, 52 

plot, 234 
Perugia, 236 
Perugino, 152, 161 
Pesaro, 260, 271, 272, 318, 321, 352 
Petrarch, 12, 80, 89, 341 
Philippa the Catenese, 77, 84 
Pia, Emilia, 326, 343 
Piacenza, 115 
Piave, river, 199 
Piccolomini, Signora, 37 
Pietole, 8, 352 
Pistofilo, Bonaventura, 274 
Pius II., 9, 11 
Pius III., 331 
Pius V., 221 
Plague, 86, 168 
Plato, 218, 337, 344 
Po, the river, 115, 270 



Poggio-a-Cajano, villa, 332, 334 

Poland, Sigismond of, 30, 384, 313 

Pole, Cardinal, 394 

Poliziano, Angelo, 41, 48, 53, 67, 68, 70 

Pomponazzi, Pietro, 107 

Porto, villa of, 170, 315, 330 

Posolippo, 89 

Pratolino, villa of, 323 

Predis, Ambrogio da, 144 

Preti, Violante de', 314, 315- 

Provence, 86 

Pulci, I.uigi, 53, 70 

Raphael, 167, 32a, 335. 343 
Ravenna, 340 

Rente of France (see France) 

Riario, Girolamo, 331, 233, 333, 334, 335, 336, 237, 238, 239, 240, 
341, 343, 243, 346 

Bianca, 236 

Ottaviano, 236, 245, 246, 251, 252 
Richard I., 187, 192 
Ridolfo, Piero, 71 
Rienzi, Cola, 85 
Romano, Cristofero, 123, 343 

Giulio, 335 
Rome, 167, 168, 169, 331-335, 389, 391, 306, 323, 351 
Rosate, Ambrogio da, 41, 115, 143 
Rossi, Liooetti de 1 , 52 
Rosso, Lucia, 36 
Ruceilai, Bernardo, 53 

Giovanna, 48 

Giovanni, 309 
Rufa, Covella, 100 

Sahseveriho, Galeaizo, 117, 130, 123, 138, 245, 251, 340 

Gaspare, 350 
Santi, Giovanni, father of Raphael, 32a 
Savelli, Cardinal, 344, 345, 334 
Savonarola, 40, 230 



Savoy, Carlotta of, 187, 194 
Saxony, Duke Ernest of, 235 
44 La Schifanoia," 177 
Sermione, 320 

Sforza, Anna, Duchess of Ferrara, 1x4, 116, 135, 139, 232, 253, 

Ascanio, Cardinal, 253 

Bianca Maria, wife of the Emperor Maxmilian, 41, 123, 126, 

"8. 135-150 
Bona, of Naples, 30 

Bona, of Savoy, 65, 112, 116, 123, 135, 136, 137, 139, 229, 230 
Bona, daughter of Isabella, Duchess of Milan, 284 
Catarina, Countess of Forli, 36, 135, 229-256 
Ercole, or Maximilian, son of Beatrice, 124, 133, 165 
Ermes, 135, 142 
Francesco, 11 1 
Galeazzo Maria, Duke of Milan, 65, 112, 135, 136, 137, 226, 

Gian Galeazzo, 53, 65, 105, 112, 113, 116, 120, 123, 129, 138, 

Giovanni, Lord of Pesaro, 259, 260, 261, 272, 316, 326 
Ippolyta Maria, 9, 107, 108, 11 1 
Jacopo Attendolo, first " Sforza," 96, 98 
Lodovico, "II Moro," Duke of Milan, 35, 108, in, 113, 116, 

120, 126, 128, 129, 130, 134, 146, 147, 148, 149, 159, 163, 249, 

25 1 * 252 
Shakespeare, 275 

Midsummer Night's Dream, 338 
Shelley, 338 
Sicily, 87 

Sidney, Sir Philip, 337 
Siena, 37 
Signorelli, 305 
Simonetta, Cecco, 112, 137 
Sixtus IV., 229, 230, 231, 232, 234, 235, 240 
Sixtus V., 224 
Spain, Philip II. , 216, 219 
Spenser, 338 
Spoleto, 327 
Strozzi, Filippo, 33 



Taranto, Louis of, 84, 87 
Tassino, 113, 137 
Tasso, Bernardo, 174 

Torquato, 179, 295 
Teodoro, 67 

Titian, 161, 167, 169, 17a, 175, 291 
Tolentino, Francesco, 239 
Tolomei, Lactantius, 299 
Tornabuoni, Giovanna, 48 
Trivulsio, Gian, 284 
Trivulzio, Alessandro, 335 

Urban VI., 90 

Urbino, 164, 166, 271, 317, 32a, 327, 331, 332, 333, 348, 351 

Elisabetta, Duchess of (see Gonzaga) 

Federigo o£ 239 

Francesco Maria, Duke of, 163, 166, 328, 350, 351, 352 

Guidobaldo, Duke oi, 271, 316, 317, 318, 322, 327, 328, 330, 
331. 337. 348, 349 

Venice, iio, 127, 162, 164, 188, 204, 208, 212, 238, 239, 329, 331 

Cristoforo Moro, Doge of, 189 
Vercelli, 132 
Vergerio, 43 

Verocchio, Andrea, 51, 54 
Vinci, Leonardo da, 114, 116, 121, 133, 141 
Virgil, 8, 89, 
Visconti, Bianca, in 

Filippo Maria, 11 1 

Valentina, 128 
Viterbo, 288, 293, 305, 321 
Vittorino da Feltre, 8, 316 
Vivegano, 119 
Volterra, Jacopo, 235 


\ /or , 








3 2044 019 344 365 

» ,. Vj> S IV f *